Friday’s Essay – Spring on the Prairie

I moved to Edmonton, Alberta from London, Ontario when I was seven.  It seemed that our texts and workbooks all came from down east.  When we did the ‘spring’ units we made the requisite flowers out of construction and tissue papers.  We read poems about crocuses in March and April rain showers.  I hadn’t quite forgotten southern Ontario springs, but I sure didn’t equate March crocuses and April rain showers with the spring I saw in Edmonton.  A more accurate school unit for spring on the Prairie would involve poems about slush and mud in March and dry, dusty breezes in April.  Discussions about colourful spring flowers would be replaced with images of brown lawns and grey trees.  Sometimes there isn’t really a spring in the Prairie – not the poetry and down east kind of spring.  The weather starts to warm a bit in April, then without really being aware of it the weather is above 20 degrees Celsius by the middle of May and it’s summer!  Since we only get a few weeks of warm weather people are in shorts and sandals as soon as possible – which is earlier than you might expect.  We’re a hearty bunch.  As soon as the snow is melted and the sidewalks are dry enough it is sandal time!  As soon as the temperature has been above 10 degrees for more than two days in a row it is shorts weather!  Sunglasses are required in May and June, not simply because the sun is shining for 10 or 12 hours a day but to avoid the glare caused by the pasty white skin of those of us with pasty white skin.  Kids are even braver than some of us older folks.  Kids are playing in the parks and riding their bikes up and down the streets in spite of the slush and mud as soon as the temperatures are hovering around 5 or 6 degrees.  You will not find a more vibrant season as spring on the Prairie.  It’s as though we hibernate from November to March, then like an explosion of colour and sound and joy our cities and towns come to life!  When I lived on the West Coast everything changed gradually – winter was grey and green, slowly spring turned to pink and blue and green, in its languid way summer became brown and green, fall quietly slipped into brown and yellow and green.  The changes were almost imperceptible.  Not like spring on the Prairie.  Spring on the Prairie is full of fireworks – sometimes the colours are brown and grey, but they’re warm and hot and full of life!  People bring the colour with their gardens and summer clothes.  It may be short, but spring on the Prairie shouldn’t be missed!

Connie Kaldor said it best in her song ‘Spring on the Prairies’

Spring in the Prairies
Comes like a surprise
One minute there’s snow on the ground
The next there’s sun in your eyes
 
Winter stays so long
Seems like it always has been
Ain’t it nice to see that green
And feel that warm wind
 
Spring in the Prairies
Comes like a surprise
One minute there’s snow on the ground
The next there’s sun in your eyes
 
Let the cows out of the barn
Watch them a-kickin’ their heels
Watch them run around the yard
That’s the way I feel
 
When it’s Spring in the Prairies
Comes like a surprise
One minute there’s snow on the ground
The next there’s sun in your eyes
 
Hey, Joe, what’cha gonna grow?
It’s nearly time to seed
“I don’t know, a quarter in oats
But the rest it goes in wheat”
 
Spring in the Prairies
Comes like a surprise
One minute there’s snow on the ground
The next there’s sun in your eyes
 
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