Tuesday, 3 March 2009

This Is the Day That Spring Begins Chez Nous

The sun shone in the bedroom of our guest room this morning. The sunbeam entered for only a minute or so, and was just a sliver wide, but it is a true sign of the change of seasons even if the temperature was -17 C (about 2 F) outside.

Streets in Montreal run north and south or east and west—or are supposed to. Actually the basic grid is oriented not along compass lines but in relation to the St. Lawrence as it flows past what now is Old Montreal. This means that the windows on the back of our house—set on the “east” side of a “north-south” street—actually points considerably north of east. March 3 or 4 is the first day that the sun is far enough north in its annual progression toward summer that its rays can enter our house.

The ancients of most cultures had similar bench marks for the seasons—Stonehenge is an example—although usually the solar guides mark the equinoxes or the solstices. In this, as in so many other things, Montreal in general and we in particular are set up to respond to cosmic events in a very individualistic way.

Take for example the fact that this week is a holiday for most schools in Quebec and the Université de Montréal. Last week many schools in Europe had a holiday for Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, while the week after next schools in Ontario and much of the rest of Canada take a week off for March Break. Spring Break is what it’s called elsewhere. Here, however, nobody’s talking about spring yet. Instead this is the time to enjoy the good things about winter—skating, sledding, skiing, snow shoeing and sipping hot chocolate. Spring—which is a soggy, gray couple of weeks here just before the blast of summer begins—will come soon enough.

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