I really like spring in Canada. That doesn’t even begin to cover it. I freaking love spring in Canada, and it’s never more beautiful then after a grueling and long winter. I will grin and embrace all of my seasonal allergies, because summer in eastern Canada is just that amazing. And May is the icing on the cake, trust me. Bring on short skirts, sandals, playoff hockey, and watching everything come back to life. Observe the bounce in everyone’s step. Watch as couples form. The best part of spring are the dogs. Seriously. Have you watched a dog frolic outside, preferably with other dogs? No? Why the heck not? Turn off your computer RIGHT THIS SECOND and go find a dog to play with. I’ll wait.
Then it dawned on me that although I’ve lived in Toronto for a few years now, and I am smitten with the whole concept of spring, I manage to avoid it until this year. Case in point: I moved to Toronto on May 1, 2010. That year, Toronto forgot to have a spring, and jumped right into sweltering summer. I sweat. I lay around on my patio drinking lemonade. I spent a few weeks getting lost on my way to work, and being utterly confused. My time was spent unpacking, adjusting to a new life, and getting lost on my way home from the grocery store. I blinked, and that summer was over. I don’t know where it went.
In May 2011, I ran off to the Galapagos and avoided real life for a good month. I needed it. I needed to digest yet another life change. By the time I emerged fro my protective cocoon, I had spent most of April catatonic, most of May in another country, and most of June peeling sunburns.
You can imagine how excited I was to enjoy May 2012 in Toronto. New apartment, knowledge of the city, a little disposable income in my account for once. But a last minute business trip to Fiji threw a kink in my plans. Ok, it’s Fiji, but I need to stop travelling in May. It’s the one month of the year I don’t want to run away from.
And the loveliest thing about spring is watching barren trees sprout back into existence. You’ll know that day has come when your sinuses scream in agony and your eyes cloud over. But the canvas outside is not a hallucinogenic side-effect of your allergy medicine, I promise. Wait. If it is, can I have some?
The sakura cherry blossoms are the greatest gift of spring.
You don’t believe me? Cherry blossom tourism is massive in Japan. The Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the blooms as spring weather spreads north across the country, and tourism booms accordingly. Foreigners flock to the countryside to picnic en masses under the cherry trees, and the Japanese frolic in nature’s splendour. It’s a grand old time.
In 1959, Japan gave the city of Toronto a gift of sakura cherry trees. Toronto has the coldest climate that sakura trees can survive in, and these delicate trees bloom much later in Toronto than in their native Japan (late April or early May in Toronto, versus late March or early April for much of Japan). I noticed an eruption of pink by the University of Toronto Robart’s library last year while I was cycling, and nearly collided with a cyclist in front of me from the distraction.
On a gloriously warm Saturday in early May, wrapped in a flowing skirt and sandals, I wandered over to High Park to see breathe in some pollen, soak up some sun, and add a little beauty to my life.
There are plenty of assholes roaming through the park, shaking the trees and causing unnecessary damage. They do spoil it for some, but the lesson of the day is simple. The park is brimming with kids, tourists, puppies. The sounds of someone playing their violin carry on the fragrant breeze.
The simplicity of the moment is where the real beauty comes from. Watching people stroll by in their Sunday best, it struck me. I was here for the same reason as they were. I have come to escape the city’s grind for a few short hours. I have come to experience nature’s symphony, which lasts but for a few short days most years. I have come to picnic.
The beauty lies not only in the flowers, although they are magnificent. I have come here on this sunny May day simply to be, to enjoy, and to relish another winter gone. I have come to feel the wind in my hair and in my clothes, and not crave shelter. My skin is warm from the sun. My feet ache from footwear I am no longer accustomed to. I sneeze. And yet, I am delighted to be here. And I am delighted that other people’s shared goal is to be. To see. To wonder. And enjoy something that is a rare gift – tranquility.
I’ll be back next year. Or I’ll try.