In Vancouver, spring has truly sprung. On the street where I live, there are miniature cyclones of cherry blossoms whirling around on the sidewalk. The apple and pear trees in the backyard look as though they are slowly gearing themselves up to provide a bounteous harvest this year.
As I write this at the inhumanly early hour of 7:00 a.m. due to the morning time change, the cat (who has already begun her seasonal process of shedding clumps of hair the size of desert tumbleweeds) is curled up on the carpet beside my desk, dozing in a delicious ray of sunlight. The cyclists, roller-bladers, wind-boarders, skim-boarders, kayakers, and joggers (who never really left, anyway) have emerged once again from their dreary bulb-like sleep, and are blooming in vernal spandex glory in every available outdoor space throughout the city. How depressing.
I know, I know. The feeling of warm sunlight on the face. The smell of flowers in the air. The magical turning of the seasons. Yada, yada, yada. The fact is, and it happens to me every single year, I just can’t easily let go of the pleasures of wintertime. Call me weird, call me perverse, but as far as I’m concerned, winter, especially in Vancouver, is where it’s at.
As anyone who has spent any amount of time in our city by the sea well knows, fall and winter are actually completely undifferentiated seasons here. Starting mid-October or so, great masses of grey and black clouds assemble overhead, like enormous floating cows gathering together in the pasture of the sky. At this point, the skies become carbon paper black. Then, for months without end, the rain begins to fall. It falls in sheets, in buckets, in gallons (both imperial and metric), in lashes, and in torrents. It rains cats and dogs, sheep and wolves, and tigers and donkeys.
Eventually (or, well, right about now), the cloud cows go lowing and chewing back to their invisible fields. And almost immediately, I begin to miss them.
For those magical months during which the sky pretends to be the sea, Vancouver becomes one of the best places on earth to enjoy the wonders of the great indoors. My own house, for instance, is transformed by the flickering of fire- and candlelight into something resembling a gloomy Victorian mansion. Eerie shadows move across the ceilings and floors. It is the perfect environment for listening to selections of melancholy music from the middle ages to the present, for hunkering down in the basement and devoting a day to depressing Scandinavian films, or for reading gloomy Russian novels as thick as loaves of rustic bread. There are cozy weekends when one does not even begin to consider the remote possibility of stepping outside for longer than it takes to retrieve the newspaper from the front step. Bliss.
When the spring arrives, however, and shafts of sunlight begin to force their way into my rooms like unwelcome door-to-door evangelists, the new, harsher light reveals my living space to be what it actually is: a series of rooms filled with clutter and dirt. There are tottering piles of books and stacks of ignored projects urgently waiting to be completed. There is discoloured wallpaper and threadbare carpets desperately in need of shampooing.
There is dust. Oh, yes! There is dust.
All of a sudden, when the spring arrives, my various excuses for being lethargic drift away like so many wind-dispersed spores. In the winter it is my right — nay, almost my responsibility — to sit at home whenever possible and make pots of tea. Suddenly, when the season changes, I find myself thinking that I should be outside and going for a bike ride, doing tai chi at the beach, or even participating in some ungodly activity like Nordic walking or something. At the very least, I should be setting stuff aside for a garage sale or cleaning the crumbs and butter residue from the kitchen drawers.
Fortunately, I am of sterner stuff than that. Through a tremendous exertion of personal will power, I will manage to keep myself in a state of relative torpor for a few more weeks. And eventually the pleasures of summer will win me over, as they always do.
Eventually, I will start swimming in the ocean again. I will organize my camping gear and tune up my mountain bike. In a few weeks, perhaps, I will find myself canoeing with my family in False Creek. But, for right now, until I have psychologically adjusted myself, I am inclined to agree with Mr. T.S. Eliot that April is indeed the cruelest month. And don’t even get me started on the time change.