The handbill that came through my letterbox today was from a gardener looking for work. “Spring is just around the corner,” said the top line. I knew that. Yesterday I heard the Northern Cardinal singing his heart out. After a winter of being mute, at this time of year the male cardinal notices the lengthening days and feels his gonads grow. If he doesn’t have a mate, this song is meant to attract one. If he does have a mate, his notes will let her know he’s ready for breeding. The song is also territorial, telling other male cardinals to stay away.
Except for one dump of snow a week ago and three in December, Toronto has pretty much had an open winter. My grandmother’s sayings ring in my ears. “A green Christmas means a full graveyard.” “Spring can’t come ’til the snow’s gone from the woods.”
Other regions have had tougher times. New Brunswick suffered an ice storm that knocked out power for thousands. I spoke recently with someone in Moncton where six inches of snow fell overnight. A few days later it was Dartmouth on the line. A nor’easter had just gone through and deposited a foot of snow. In Toronto, either event would have been declared a disaster requiring help from the armed forces. In a conversation with Victoria earlier this month, I was told that the daffodils were up. On the west coast, they sure do love to boast.
All Canadians love to talk about the weather. Even if the winter is snowless in Toronto, brief in Victoria, and hazardous in Atlantic Canada, these are the ties that bind. We survive. We congratulate each other. And we listen with rapture to a birdsong.