Mon pays, c’est l’hiver

During a walk in the sunshine this afternoon, I saw my first robin of spring. He was sitting alone in the middle of a baseball field in my neighbourhood so he was unlikely a wintering robin, or he would have been surrounded by a flock. He sat for the longest time, hoping to find a worm, but finally flew away, empty-beaked. Maybe he will fill up on berries before nightfall.

This has been the winter of our discontent. February was the coldest month ever in Toronto with an average temperature of –12.6C. As a boy growing up in Guelph, the coldest I can remember was –13F (–25C) so I’ve survived worse.

And deeper snow, too. When we moved to Ottawa in September 1970, the snowfall during that winter of 1970-71 set a record of 181 inches. The drifts reached second story windows but the city was prepared, the plows got through, school was never cancelled, and daily life carried on.

I know lots of snowbirds who pass their winters in Florida or Arizona. And over the years I’ve spent the odd week myself on a beach or watching spring training. But I don’t mind Canadian winters. They remind me of who I am. I have been fortunate to live in England, the United States and Italy for long, enjoyable stretches. But something always brings me home. It must the snow. And that first robin.

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