Signs of Spring – in Toronto…

by Lesia D. Kohut

 As far back as I can remember spring has been my least favourite season.  I find it dreary, wet, cold and grey.  I don’t know if I should pack up my turtle necks, winter coat, and winter boots, or keep them out for just a few more weeks in case we get one last cold snap (hello freezing rain and ice pellets…!).  For me, spring in Toronto, for the most part, feels like Mother Nature doesn’t know what to do with herself and ends up taking a bit of a rest for a few weeks.  And then, when I least expect it, surprise – it’s summer!  (Usually on a day I’m still wearing a turtle neck, because it was freezing cold at 7am. What…?! Did we even have spring…?)

Perhaps if I lived in Victoria, Washington, D.C. or even Kyiv (I’ve seen the beautiful signs of spring in Victoria and Washington first-hand, and have seen gorgeous photos of Kyiv because my dad lives there), I might feel differently.  In those cities, leaves have already burst out of their buds, tiny tulips, crocuses and even hyacinths have pushed through the topsoil, and magnolia, apple and cherry blossoms are but a few weeks away from making their delicate, graceful seasonal debut.  The rain is warm, the dirty slush and muddy snow of late winter long gone, and birds are once again nesting and singing high atop the tree branches.

Now all that being said, there are signs of every spring, even here in Toronto, that do make me smile, and remind me that summer, and then fall (my personal fave of the seasons) are not far off.  Some of the more recent signs of spring that have resulted in a little spring in my step have been:

1. Hearing and seeing an impressive wedge of geese flying in their classic “v” formation high up in the sky. The organization, the effort, the cooperation blows my mind.  And the fact I can hear them all the way down on the ground when they’re several kilometres off the ground – well that’s pretty cool.

2. Arriving home the other day, getting out of the car, and hearing a loud knocking sound from above.  The cause of this cacophony?  A red-headed woodpecker pecking away at a branch of the large maple tree on our front lawn.  We all got our camera phones out to take pictures, but he wasn’t into the paparazzi, and ultimately flew away.

3. Thunder!  (…ah-ah-ah-ahhh-ah-ah-ahhh-ah-ah – for all those thunderstruck AC/DC fans out there…)  We know it’s getting warmer when thunderstorms start showing up on the radar (literally), and last week there was a great one!  Loud, cracking and rolling thunder preceded by blinding white flashes of lightening lighting up the dark spring sky.  Guaranteed to put a bit of spring in anyone’s step.

4. My favourite sign of spring though (the one I do look forward to every year no matter how dreary, wet, cold and grey it is) is a special email in my inbox – an invitation to apply for a new summer season at one of our local farmers’ markets!

Applications going out means that in only a few weeks, farmers’ markets which were closed for the winter will reopen.  It also means we’ll be able to reconnect and catch up with our farmer and artisanal producer friends.  We’ll see fresh young greens replace delicious (but oh so tired) root vegetables of winter, and there will be delicious new batches of maple syrup.  Not too far after that the first strawberries of the season will also appear!

Most of the farmers also bring young plants with them.  So in addition to buying freshly grown produce from them every week, I can also plant vegetables started on their farms in my own backyard, connecting me in such a tangible way with these amazing people who grow our food.  It’s like having a tiny piece of their farm right here in the city.

I know eventually Mother Nature will get into gear, and work her magic.  Leaves will plump up the trees, and April showers will lead to May flowers finally adding some much needed, vibrant colour to our dull, seemingly humdrum landscape.

For now though, I’m keeping my cozy, snow white winter blanket close, and my turtlenecks, winter coat and winter boots at the ready, because one of the signs of spring in Toronto is not necessarily knowing whether or not spring has actually sprung.

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