Last week, to begin our “Time” unit, my son and I talked about the seasons. I copied a poem on our little whiteboard that described a season. #5 closed his eyes and I read the poem aloud to him. I asked him what he saw and to guess the season. He then painted the picture from his mind and copied a sentence of the poem in his main lesson book. We talked about each season and what it was like to experience four very different times of the year in Canada. We compared it to Costa Rica. As we sat on our porch in the hot midday sun, beads of sweat collecting in every fold of our body, we talked about what seasons look like here. Yes, there is a wet and dry and a high and low which is related to the number of people coming and going through our little town.
I asked him if it was possible to experience or feel “Spring” here? At first he said no. He told me how it was always hot here even when it rained for days.
I told him to close his eyes again and tell me about Spring in Toronto. What did he remember? He remembers planting seeds in egg cartons and what it felt like to be able to go outside without a jacket. He remembers the return of the birds and the waking up of animals.
When we travelled back to Toronto at the end of March, we were all hoping to catch a glimpse of you. Technically, you were already supposed to have announced your arrival. Spring equinox had come and gone and I was looking for your signs. Instead, we found more snow and chill and I wasn’t sure if I had seen more shades of grey in the sky ever. We used to love welcoming you in Toronto. Your grand entrance would be marked by the buds on our magnolia tree on our front lawn and the flecks of green that would catch our eye in the valley near us. We would squeal with delight when we saw the fiddleheads of budding ferns on our hikes or the wild leeks peeking out of the brown earth in the forest.
But the true herald of spring were the birds. One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was his story about coming to Canada and lamenting the length of the cold winter but he learned to see the signs of spring. He learned to love the song of the “robin red breast” – this is what he called the bird – announcing the imminent thaw of our concrete city. Spring meant that his tropical bones could warm up again and his breathing would be less strained.
When my grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles, waxed nostalgic about the smells and sights of the Philippines, I imagined an endless summer. When they talked about it in the middle of a cold snap, I fantasized about life in flip flops and grabbing our favourite fruits – bananas, mangoes, pineapples – right from the tree. As I look around this morning, I am stunned at where I find myself. It’s early morning and I hear the call of dozens and dozens of birds amidst a canopy of the largest trees I have ever seen. I am already beginning to feel too warm for this light wrap around my shoulders. And hanging just above me is the bunch of bananas we are sharing with our neighbours that they just cut from the tree beside our house.
This is the first time we are here at this time of the year and finding myself in a land where summer never really ends, a place where I can feel how my parents grew up, makes me reflect on the seasons I grew up with. I mean, people complain about the “cold days” when it’s 22 degrees and grey. Here we are all in sweaters and pants and wool socks. But that was the summer nights in Toronto where I remember sitting on my old porch in shorts and a T shirt.
I tell my son that spring can be felt here. In fact, all the seasons happen here all the time. But the cycle is different. In Toronto, the four seasons cycle in a year. Here, they cycle in a single day if we look close enough at the signs. My son is the one that rises early with us. We sit together to listen to the birds wake up and call and there is an almost unnoticeable balmy waft of air that flows through the trees and down to us that feels like a spring breeze. Here it is subtle because our days are filled with heat but in Toronto, it’s that unmistakeable breeze that is welcome after a long chill. The dawn light feels like that delicate glow of spring – the muted hue of a sky and earth awakening after a long rest. Flowers open from their slumber. After a night of rain, new plants have sprouted and everything smells fresh.
Each morning here holds the gifts of spring. The rest of the kids listen in on our lesson – a lesson of the seasons that aren’t contained in one span of time – a year. Seasons can fill a day or span a lifetime. What qualities can be found in the seasons? What attributes of spring can we find in each of ourselves as we set out on a new project, a new outlook, a new life?
In many ways, we find ourselves in the season of spring, awakening to our purpose, feeling optimistic and full of expectation. I was afraid that I would miss you too much but here you are. You are always here. I feel you during my moon cycle. I feel you in the cycles of parenthood. I feel you in my homeschooling year when I detach myself from strictly adhering to the structure of the school year and tune myself to our own family rhythm based on what is happening in our lives. I feel your presence more now in this Land of Endless Summer than when I took you for granted in Toronto.