A Winter’s Tale

I remember a January morning, almost thirty years ago, when I discovered the true nature of winter.

We were living in Liberia, and the harmattan winds were blowing from the Sahara. It was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity. Overnight low was about 20 degrees Celsius. That 68 Fahrenheit for you Americans.

It was a Monday morning and I was heading out early to mail a letter. On my way I came across a Liberian friend who had been working overnight. We stared at each other, both shook pour heads and burst into laughter. On this Liberian “winter” morning, I was dressed for comfort, a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt and short pants. My friend was also dressed for comfort, his comfort. He had on a parka, a hat, and, I think, gloves. He was shivering in the cold. It was the dead of winter for him and he was feeling it.  He couldn’t believe that I thought the weather was just about perfect.

I realized then that so much of weather is what you are used to. His cold was my heat wave. Winter is really a state of mind.

My first “winter” in Germany has not been what I expected. I knew it wouldn’t be like a Canadian winter but seem to have expected a little more than what I have received so far. I keep waiting for winter to start.

My neighbour insists it is only a matter of time, but she says that with less conviction than a few weeks ago. I still haven’t woken up to snow on the streets (though once there was a centimetre on parked cars, not enough for a Canadian to worry about brushing off. It all melted before nine anyway). I think only once in January has the temperate briefly dipped below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) overnight. There has been a lot of rain, and the days are gray even when it isn’t raining, but it just hasn’t felt like winter.

Now I am being told to wait until February. Then, I am assured, we will get some winter weather. I’m not sure I can believe that. I’ve never been here for a full winter, but I was in the area for a few days last February. It was 16 degrees Celsius.

I feel almost guilty for being here, gray as it may be. Back in Ottawa the weather has been pretty brutal, with overnight lows around minus thirty and wind chills of -45. I’m not sure if it is the coldest winter on record, but it probably feels like it to those who are enduring it. This while I enjoy the flowers in my neighbour’s yard. It doesn’t seem fair.

So, I’m going to share some pictures of those flowers, dedicated to anyone toughing out a rough winter. Take heart, spring is coming. I suspect though that it is coming here first.

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