Contrary to popular opinion, Canada has not four seasons but six: summer (my personal favourite), pretty autumn, ugly autumn, winter, ugly spring and pretty spring. Those of you who live here know what I mean. Pretty autumn is that lovely time, in September and October, when the trees still have their leaves, but they display a cornucopia of gorgeous colors: amber, ochre, scarlet. The air, fresh and earthy, maintains a trace of warmth with only the slight undercurrent of a chill. The sky is often clear, blue and sunny with the special hazy light we only get that time of year. Sadly, though, by November, we have passed into ugly autumn, that gloomy time when winter has not yet arrived, but its presence looms in the distance, almost visible. The slight undercurrent of chill from pretty autumn is slight no more; it becomes undeniable and insistent. The trees are leafless and lifeless; their barren branches reach to the sky seeking mercy from what is to come. As much as I hate winter—in fact, I despise it more than almost anything—ugly autumn is nearly as bad. At least in the depths of January and February, you can console yourself with the (perhaps misguided) idea that “at least it’s almost half over.” Not so with November; the horrors of winter lie in wait, and dread is as cold as the grey sky and frosty earth. As for winter, well, for Canadians anyway, I need say no more, since the word itself speaks volumes. Thankfully, we have Christmas to anticipate in that bone-chilling season. It warms our spirits a little at least.
That brings me now to ugly spring, our current place in the Canadian calendar. When most people hear the word “spring,” they think about warm sun, birds chirping, sprouting buds on the trees, flowers breaking ground and beginning to bloom. In Canada, those joyous things come, in pretty spring, but first we must endure ugly spring. The air still chills, especially when the wind blows, which is often. The grass is over-laid with fuzzy grey snow mould and lawns remain brown and beaten. The roads and sidewalks are covered in puddles, ice, mud or gravel. No matter which of these things greets you, alone or in combination, the mess gets tracked everywhere, even into your house. There is little to cherish about ugly spring. It simply seems one more insult from nature for us to bear.
All I can say now is this: “Pretty spring, please hurry. We have missed you. We have waited long enough for you and for your friend summer.”