Last week I saw my first spring migrants — brown creepers working their way up our maple and oak trees. They’re tiny little birds, but nature must have made them hardy because they’re among the first migratory songbirds to appear in spring and the last to leave in the fall.
The same week brought correspondingly milder weather and for the first time in weeks I was able to stretch my legs, taking longer walks without worrying about ice on the sidewalks. It even resurrected my winter-jaded interest in photography. The mind goes numb after too much winter. It gets desperate for spring.
It was, alas, another of those too-good-to-be-true interludes. Late February and early March yield mild weather occasionally, but it never lasts. Winter will have her way.
Came the north wind, and the temperatures plummeted deep into the sub-zero range, with wind chills so bitter business even fell off at my local Starbucks. I had no trouble finding a seat.
I’m stubborn about my daily walk, and don’t like missing it, despite weather conditions. Yesterday was no different. I’d found that if I waited until after lunch to head out, the temperatures would rise just enough that, dressed snugly, I could manage the cold. Even so it was an extremely cold walk to the harbour, with no chance of an extended walk. I wrote a rant about iTunes and drank coffee. Ranting felt good.
As I headed home, I realized I’d miscalculated how cold it was. The wind was strong, brisk, and Arctic, and I was walking directly into it. Despite being warmly dressed, I was getting so cold I began to worry about my heart. This was the kind of weather they tell recovering heart patients to avoid and there I was walking into the teeth of it.
I concentrated on breathing through my nose only, to warm the air as much as possible before it reached the lungs. I even slowed my walk a bit, not wanting to overexert myself. It was one of the longest 20-minute walks I remember for quite some time.
Inside at last. I huffed for about fifteen minutes before settling into a warm stupor on the couch, wondering how those little frail creepers manage without electricity and a furnace. Feathers are a remarkable bit of evolutionary biotechnology, keeping the birds warm enough to survive a few cold days with ease. As soon as it warms up a bit, they’ll be back on the trees, confident that their internal calendars are on schedule and that, for their species, spring has returned to the North.
Therein lies the hope.