Sunday, January 28, 2007

A weird kind of homesickness

The weather on Friday made me homesick for Canada. Oh, not homesick for Canada as it was on Friday, but homesick for Canada the way it will be in a month or two.

It's been cold (in the mid to high 40s Fahrenheit; okay, cold for Louisiana) recently, and overcast. Most of the rain hits the state in the winter and spring months, or so it seems. It hasn't been a torrential rain, but Lake Darbonne, about 40 miles away, was at flood stage, probably due to rain in Arkansas. It's pretty much a downhill run from the Ozarks to the Gulf of Mexico. It was raining again yesterday. Today was sunny with some occasional cloud, but pretty chilly.

Friday, though, was beautiful. There were no clouds. The temperature hit 56°F, but without much wind it felt warmer than that. It was the kind of day when you don't feel the least bit productive. It's the kind of day that signals that winter is almost over.

Or so it does when it hits Canada in March.

It's not surprising that so much of Canadian culture revolves around the winter. A few months ago I was reading a magazine on the convenience store industry at work. They mentioned Canadian convenience stores attached to gas stations, and how they just don't sell all the stuff you find in an American convenience store attached to a gas station. In Canadian stores it's mostly just staples and junk food. In American store there's a whole lot more. The main reason is that Canadians have different buying patterns. They tend to buy a lot of stuff all at once from a grocery store. They make fewer runs to stores. The reason is the weather. Canadians get home from work in the winter and it's likely still dark out. And it's cold. Actually, driving when it's very cold (-20°C, or lower) is not a problem. The roads are usually clear (salt melted the ice, and the dry air evaporated the water). It's when the temperature is close to freezing that you get lots of snow. Regardless, Canadians tend to visit grocery stores and get all they need at once. This is just one aspect of Canadian culture being governed by the weather.

January is the coldest month in Ontario. Usually you get a thaw in February, only to have it go cold again. Another thaw hits in March, and this is the one that I'm homesick for. I have vivid memories of blue skies, warm weather (from 0 to 10°C), and snow melt puddling in the street and on sidewalks. Suddenly everyone goes out, particularly if the weather hits on a weekend. (If it's a weekday, the streets are packed at lunch and productivity seems to go down the tubes.) People go out for walks. Stores are busy, particularly in city centres where stores are not necessarily buried in a mall. There's an energy you don't find at any other time of the year. I can see the waning light of 5 o'clock in early March, where the warm day starts to cool down rapidly. Time to go back inside, but this time you don't mind. It's been a glorious day.

These memories have flooded over me the last couple of days, making me a little melancholy. The reason was the weather on Friday. It was just like those March thaw days, except there was no snow to melt. There were some puddles from the rain, and I think that contributed. I wasn't very productive at work; it was all I could do to drag myself back into the office.

What's really throwing me, though, is that this is happening in January. It feels glorious... but it also feels wrong. I haven't even had a real winter yet, and already I'm feeling like it's spring.

So, if my mood seems subdued you now know why. But I'm okay. If my mood gets too down, I simply think about the way Canada is right now, and suddenly I don't feel so bad. Unlike almost everyone I know in Canada, I much prefer the heat (even with humidity, though northern Louisiana is less humid in the summer than Toronto) to the cold.


Michael said...

You wouldn't want to have been in Ontario the way it's been lately. Wind-chills have been around the minus-20 mark, with occasional freezing rain to make things really interesting.

Hope the winter blahs release their hold on you guys fairly soon. You may regret winter's passage, but it seems to me you really need some sun, dude.

Allan Goodall said...

Hope the winter blahs release their hold on you guys fairly soon.

I shouldn't really complain, given that the winter is so short down here.

On the other hand, we do have to live in Monroe, which brings its own kind of blahs...

JAM said...

Having grown up in the States, most national news weather bits tend to only show the continental U.S. They usually show International Falls Minnesota's temperature because it's the coldest here much of the time.

I have to stop and remember that the entire country of Canada is north of Minnesota! (for the most part) Brrr.

Allan Goodall said...

I have to stop and remember that the entire country of Canada is north of Minnesota! (for the most part) Brrr.

Alana chuckles at the fact that, according to the weather map on most U.S. cable shows, there is no weather in Canada! None! The thermoclines all end at the northern border.

Not all of Canada is cold, even in the winter, though. While Toronto is a relatively balmy -7 C (19 F) right now, and Montreal is a nippier -13 (9 F, though wind chill makes it feel like -21 C/-6 F), Vancouver is above freezing at 2 C (36 F).

Michael said...

I feel obligated to mention that there are quite a few bits of the U.S. that are further north than southern Ontario, especially the Niagara Peninsula. Most of Idaho; all of Washington (state), Maine, both North and South Dakota, Montana; pretty much all of Wisconsin, and chunks of New Hampshire, Wyoming, Vermont and Oregon -- heck, even parts of New York state -- are further north than Toronto.

I'm just sayin', is all.

Michael said...

Oh,and Minnesota, of course.

All of it.

Allan Goodall said...

Isn't this the point where you point out you're from Calgary, and start telling us "when I was a boy" stories of snow up to your armpits followed by a chinook-caused heat wave the next day?