Particular prairie weather

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Postcard or real life? Jason Blackeye via Unsplash

You never realize how much you love the sunshine until it’s gone

I feel like I have said this before, but every year in the summer, I am baffled why the whole world does not move to the prairies and take in our glorious summers. Then every year, around mid-November, I remember why not. By the end of March or early April, I in turn forget why anyone would ever want to live here. Then, as the days grow longer, the sun shines down brightly on Wascana Lake, and I sit in the backyard with a book, we repeat that cycle of forgetting and remembering all over again.

We are now just past the middle of March, and the brutal spell of 30 and 40 below zero seems to have finally broken. There is still the brutal wind, and the snow on the ground is not done melting. Given the amount of snow we got in the last few weeks, it will be a while before we are free from it – and of course, if every year is any indication, there will likely be one last storm in April. It would take a particularly morose and ungrateful person to claim that the weather is not improving or to deny that better days are not too far away.

Personally, I love the prairie springs and summers. I love when, at the end of a full workday, there is still enough daylight left to enjoy a long, lazy walk down to the lake. Or, on days when I am feeling less active, just taking a book down to the neighborhood park and reading in the sunlight. This is a warm-welcomed change from the nearly six months in a year when the park is covered in snow.

When I first arrived in Regina, some friends and I used to share a chuckle about how in the fall, when it is 5 ºC, people break out their jackets and gloves. Then, in the spring when it is 5 ºC, the same people break out t-shirts and shorts. After six years here, I am now one of those people, and I understand why. Come spring, it is almost a symbolic gesture of hope that bright, sunny, warm days cannot be too far now. However, I am also a bit of a diva when it comes to cold weather. For large parts of the winter, I hardly ever leave my room, let alone the house. Even now, with summer practically right around the corner, I operate with a healthy mix of skepticism about the stability of prairie weather. As someone once said to me, “if you do not like the weather here, just wait ten minutes and you will get a different one!” In late March and early April, this means that I am never quite sure whether to put faith in the warm, sunny afternoon and head outdoors, as I risk finding myself in the middle of a blizzard later on.

I grew up in a highly urban setting, the proverbial concrete jungle we often hear about, in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. On the upside, we enjoyed warm tropical weather pretty much all year round. I still remember how, in my childhood, we were told one morning that there would be no school because there was an extreme cold warning – it was 12 ºC. It should probably come as no surprise that living in weather like that, I had little appreciation for warm, sunny days because they were a dime a dozen. After my first Canadian winter, the first day the weather was warm and the sun was out, I understood why people long for days like these. What I did not expect, however, was the almost immediate lifting of spirits and improvement of mood as I headed out for a walk. Looking back years later, I realize how important some sunlight, outdoor activity, and moving around is for our overall health and well-being. In the time I have lived here, I have grown far more mindful of enjoying a little moving around, a little sunlight, and more than a little water.

Of course, it is still tricky around this time of year. In the extreme cold of January, it is a no-brainer to stay indoors and have some soup. In summer, it is an equally easy decision to go for a walk or lounge in the backyard. It is these days in between when it is too sunny to be cooped up indoors, but there is either a bitter cold wind or the possibility that we will find ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm in minutes. Personally, I begin to slowly venture out on these days. I take care not to walk down all the way to the lake or so far that I might find myself stranded in bad weather. Sometimes, I will just do a few rounds of my neighborhood. Other times, I will walk down to campus, about ten minutes away from my place. This affords me the opportunity to enjoy some time outdoors, with the option of sneaking back indoors if things are beginning to look less pleasant.

While I love winters, I must admit that in the last two years, winters and the associated social isolation have been hard on my mental health. Which is why, while the weather is still too cold for comfort, I am trying to take every opportunity I can to be outdoors and get some sun. This year, perhaps a little more than any other year, I am also really looking forward to the long, warm days of summer. For now, as I take care to dress up for a sudden potential cold snap before heading out for a stroll, I hope those days are not far away, and that the world around us is a little less crazy once the beautiful prairie summers roll around. Wishing everyone a wonderful summer!

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