Walking north towards Georgia on Richards Street, just before midnight. It’s not even the end of January, but the air has already begun to unfurl its loins and make plans for the weekend. It’s the smell. What is that? Pollen? Plant musk? Even when the air is cold, the smell is warm. And that is spring.

It just so happens, as my Nana always liked to point out to my mother, that spring in Vancouver starts in January. Not a haughty spring, but reserved, sensible. Canadian. A light jacket is appropriate, but not shorts. Not quite. And it’s certainly not beach weather! No, not yet.

But the tulips are up, trembling and frost-wary, with the memory of past springs saved in their garlicky souls. And the grass, seemingly nothing but dry brown clumps only days ago, is now ludicrously green. It looks like some crazed child has been on a rampage with a Play-Doh Lawn Maker kit. In fact, blades of grass strain upwards, grotesquely erect, swollen with life and individually identifiable in the hoary patches at the bases of the bare boulevard trees. I have seen no grass like this in all my days of grass-seeing.

I don’t really miss the melting away of winter that is so tangible in Ontario. The sense of stretching, of blood returning to the extremities. The life cycle of snow: frosted on the grass like icing sugar; piled at the sides of the driveway; then finally reduced to grey-brown crusts at the curbs that seemed to turn into gravel. The first girl in a skirt, the first bare legs of the season. I don’t really miss them. Not quite. No, not yet.

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