Sunday, April 17, 2011 | Categories: Michael's Essays
About the end of February, I began thinking about bird feeders. Actually I thought about birds first, then the feeders. About how with a lot of winter left to run, there was no place in the back yard for any returning birds to feed.
Never thought much about birds, actually. Never really understood the magic of them, although I have a number of friends who do.
I can tell a blue jay from a cardinal and a bald eagle from a barn owl, but that's about it.
Birds, though, are a sign of spring coming back,. The promise of spring.
I called a friend, a fanatical bird watcher and asked him how to install a bird feeder.
"First of all, dummy, you have to wait for the ground to thaw," he said. Right.
Planting a bird feeder is a sign of spring.
There are others.
The first game of the baseball season, for example.
The first steroid use scandal of the baseball season.
The motorcycle storage guy calling to say your bike is primed and ready to be picked up.
Filling leaf bag after leaf bag to put curbside and watch as the bag dissolves in the April showers.
Restaurants opening up their outdoor patios.
Big brave adult men in safety helmets riding their mountain bikes on the sidewalk.
Snow tires and convertible tops coming off.
The spring ritual of putting toques, heavy gloves, snow pants, and long underwear into green garbage bags, consigned to the basement. And then melt water leaking into the basement where you've just stored your winter things.
It has been a mean, ugly winter in most of the country. The west was hit hard by snowfall. The good people of Revelstoke had so much snow, nearly 39 feet, I think they just about gave up shovelling.
In Calgary, snow that fell in November stayed through much of this month.
The east had freezing rain and gale force winds. Montreal and Toronto lived sub-zero for months.
But we made it through, most of us, comforted by detailed weather reporting all the way.
This has become a huge journalistic endeavor, telling us about the weather. Every network and radio station has either "weather specialists" or actual meteorologists charting our weather future.
This is a fairly recent trend in journalism. Not that many years ago, weather was a rip-and-read exercise with not much attention to detail.
Then it was discovered in focus groups and with the help of highly paid expert consultants that the two things dominate viewer interest in any newscast are crime and weather.
So now we have plenty of both.
The weather people have become TV personalities. They are smart, know an awful lot about weather and weather patterns and they are pretty accurate in their forecasts.
Sometimes though they tell us a bit too much, a bit more than what we need to know.
Sometimes it's like listening to a man at a party who's had too much to drink talk about his hair transplant.
And many have taken it upon themselves, in loco parentis, to become our weather caregivers.
"We'd better take along an umbrella, hadn't we."
"Don't forget that extra sweater this morning."
"You'll really need your sunscreen this afternoon."
However we define it, however we react to it, we are a weather conscious people. We have to be. We are defined by our seasons and the changes in seasons.
And we are a winter country, a winter people.
Which is why spring is such a sweet season. The clichés are all correct. It is a time of re-birth and renewal.
As winter recedes, so do the memories of bitter cold and searing winds.
Spring is a warming, ageless time, when for a few days, a few weeks, everyone feels young again.