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Illustration by Marley Allen-Ash

I survived December. And January. And February: the entire winter. I say that every year but every year I am newly emphatic.

As I walked to one of my favourite cafés, even the sparrows, uproarious in their chattering and demonic in their flight patterns, knew that spring was in the air. No buds, yet, and still no robins. But patience, I told myself, they too would arrive. One sign at a time. The neighbour’s white cat, imprisoned all winter, travelled along the fence line to escape the growing pools of melting snow. I watched him, “Out on a day pass, Hemingway?” He blinked repeatedly, dazed and confused, still trying to get his bearings. Me, too. It felt like a brave, new world; the proverbial reawakening, with the sun’s warmth penetrating within, changing my careworn into carefree. Donning a pair of shades in reflective turquoise, I set off down the street like a Dr. Seuss character, “to see what I could see.”

The tables and chairs had returned to the sidewalks. Cautiously, yes, and in great abundance? Not yet, but they were appearing and I was happy to snag one. Enjoying a coffee in the full sun of a late March afternoon, I was buoyed and heartened by the visible signs of a departing season of bitter winds and calamitous snowfalls. Everything seemed so much more humane while basking in the sunshine. Cars went by with their windows down and in the stop-and-go traffic, snatches of songs and the occasional bare arm, hand resting on the side mirror, had me nodding in appreciation. Bikes and the odd skateboard appeared and I smiled, and when a dog of indeterminate breed trotted by with a frisbee in his mouth, my smile stretched wider. Life is good, again.

An image of Persephone rising up into the arms of her mother, Demeter, flashed through my mind. From D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, Persephone, the goddess of spring, is released from the shadowy, grim world of Hades, and returns to her mother, Demeter, as the world warmed and blossomed, again. I settled back to enjoy the moment and the ever-changing tableau of spring’s homecoming. A fly landed on my table. Oh good, company. But he didn’t stay. In the grip of spring fever, he giddily looped away.

Across the street, young men in shorts shared their twirling expertise with a basketball, loud and proud. On my side, one young man walked by carrying a backpack with his T-shirt off and tucked cavalierly into his jean pocket. A little pasty, perhaps, but I admired his vote of confidence. Spring was here. Could skipping ropes and ice cream cones be far behind? The flower shop next to me buzzed with customers admiring buckets of tulips, pussy willows and bunches of joyously yellow forsythia. After February’s dreary, desperate days, they were a balm for my eyes.

People met and greeted in the middle of the sidewalk and the sense of leisure and relaxation was palpable. No more miserable, curt nods as we bypassed each other, rigidly seeking a car or shelter. Now, we paused, we sauntered, we laughed freely and breathed deeply. And if we’re young and sporting a new pair of blinding yellow puddle boots, we bounced... into a puddle. Kids and water; since time began.

As the afternoon warmed, jackets were discarded, mittens were nowhere in sight and shopping bags appeared; lots and lots of shopping bags. There was nothing like floods of sunshine to release the purse strings. At this time of year, less is definitely more; less black, less material, less cumbersome footwear. For the first time in months, our clothing no longer weighed more than we did. Window displays were full of apparel in lush, tropical colours. The display of sneakers in the athletic shop window was especially fluorescent; triumphant, even. A sign enticed customers to “crush it with colour” in hits of grape, tangerine and key lime; a fruit cocktail of spring wear. I drank it all in.

Back at the café, to my left, a man sat reading, his ankles crossed, sporting tan loafers with no socks. He looked supremely at ease, all the pinched and harassed symptoms of the previous dark days, gone, unwound in the sun. Not to be out “springed,” I pushed my sleeves up to a rakish level. To my right, a woman and a tiny dog sat down. She adjusted the pink bow in her pet’s forelock and smiled at me. “We’re taking a break from all the backyard poop collecting.” I smiled sympathetically. A sign of spring, to be sure, but perhaps not a favourite one. “Yes, that must be quite the job.”

Strangers having a neighbourly chat. The warmth of the sun dispelling any conversational chill. Even walking around the neighbourhood there was a deep sense of relief and connection; a reacquaintance with the land and each other without the muffling barriers of boots, balaclavas and thick mitts. People were sitting on porches, waving across the streets, some pushing strollers, some wheelchairs. One beamed at me and showed the toonie he had found by the curb in the snowmelt. “Looks like a trip to Tim Hortons is going to happen,” I chuckled. Looks were direct and amiable; nods of the head were genuine and friendly; smiles were inclusive and empathetic; greetings were pleasant and good-natured. We were all comrades. We had made it. We were here, at last. Momentary lapses might still occur (it was Alberta, after all), and there was still plenty of dirty snow left, but its days were numbered.

Overhead, I heard the distant honking of friends long gone, returning in the skies. Perhaps, a bit early, but I applauded their forward thinking. Like the clocks, it was time to spring forward.

Violet St. Clair is from Toronto but lives in Edmonton.