Tag Archives: Spring

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

There are two things I really like to read on rainy days: poetry about stormy weather and humorous books. Why does my brain work this way? I have no idea, but it has strong opinions on this topic that I’m going to honour.

This week I’m going to be recommending five comedic books and five poems that somehow reference rain, storms, or similar topics.

The Books

1. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica

Most people understand that folks who work in the service industry are fellow human beings and should be treated with the same basic level of respect and kindness you’d offer to any other stranger. The individuals who choose not to follow this social more for whatever reason provided endless fodder for a hilarious blog that eventually lead to this book, too.

It’s the perfect thing to read if you’ve ever worked in the service industry or wondered what that experience can be like on the not-so-great days. I started reading it during a thunderstorm years ago, so that may be why I associate it with rainy days so much.

2. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Mr. Halpern’s dad is the sort of person who says whatever outrageous thing is on his mind without thinking about how others will react to it. I should warn you that some of the quotes in this book might be offensive to some readers due to the stereotypical things the dad says about certain groups.

With that being said, most of these quotes are simply odd statements about society shared by a man who either can’t or is purposefully refusing to understand that the world has changed a lot since he was young. (It was never clear to me which one of these explanations was most accurate, and I definitely don’t want to shame him if he has some sort of health problem that affects how he thinks or relates to others.)

As someone who has a couple of relatives who act a lot like this dad, it feels nice to know that I’m not the only one dealing with this situation. Sometimes laughter truly is the best response to things you cannot change.

3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I read this book several years ago. The only things I remember about it is that it was quite funny and I believe I might have read it during a very rainy weekend in my city.

4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Ms. Brosh is one of the funniest cartoonists of our generation. If you haven’t checked out her work yet, you really should. Sometimes I save her latest blog posts specifically for stormy days because of how much I enjoy savouring them for a while.

5. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

This was the first book I ever read from this author, and it happened in a bookstore on a stormy day. I loved his descriptions of trying to learn French, among other adventures. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Sedaris’ work ever since then.

 

The Poems

1. April Rain Song by Langston Hughes

If you read this blog long enough, you’re going to notice me mentioning Langston Hughes a lot. He was an incredibly talented poet that I try to introduce new people to as often as possible.

2. Peasants Waiting for Rain by G.S. Sharat Chandra

It can be easy for those of us who aren’t farmers to forget just how important rain is for agriculture. This poem is a nice reminder of that.

3. Rain in the Desert by Walter Lowenfels

If you’ve never seen a downpour in the desert, this poem is an excellent description of one.

4. To the Rain by Ursula K. LeGuin

I love the cleansing imagery in this poem. The world does seem like a cleaner, brighter place after a good thunderstorm!

5. Sheep in the Rain by James Wright

The last line of this poem was what made me realize how great it is.

An Exclusive Interview with Spring

It isn’t every day that a blogger nabs a chance to interview any of the seasons, much less one as highly sought-after as spring! I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Spring: Sorry for running a few weeks late there. I lost track of time.

Lydia: Welcome! It’s nice to finally meet you. I was wondering where you’d gone. How was your trip?

Spring: Oh, traffic was backed up like it usually is.  I did take notes while reading your rain review, so I wanted to make a few last-minute changes to this year’s itinerary.  I hope you’ll like those extra thunderstorms I squeezed into Ontario’s schedule this month. They’re fussier recipes than regular rainstorms, but I wanted to give you something special this time.

Lydia: Thank you. They look perfect. So let’s talk about your role as spring. What’s it like to awaken the northern hemisphere again every year?

Spring: Well, every season needs to prepare for transitional periods. You can’t exactly switch from winter to spring in one afternoon! My work is especially interesting because it involves waking up all of the plants and animals that slept their way through the cold season, and that’s not something any of the other seasons need to think about. Winter and I have had to learn how to coordinate that process so that no one wakes up too early or too late. It’s a balancing act, and every year I learn a little bit more about what does and doesn’t work in various climates.

Lydia: Speaking of winter, what is your relationship with them like?

Spring: Frosty. Yes, I’m totally joking there. We have a good working relationship. The world wouldn’t be the same place without a period of rest, and I appreciate all that winter does while the rest of us are asleep. The plants sure do appreciate it, and the insects are learning to see the bright side of it as well. Honestly, sometimes I wish my hibernation period lasted longer than it does.

Lydia: A hibernation period? Interesting! I was just about to ask what the seasons do when they’re not currently in use. What is that process like?

Spring: It’s like flopping into a warm, soft bed after a hard day’s work. Occasionally, I might wake up to take over for winter or summer for an afternoon, but I generally like to sleep through my full rest period if possible. Of course, that hasn’t been happening as often as it used to these days.

Lydia: I hear you there. On a somewhat related note, what are your relationships like with summer and autumn?

Spring: Summer and I get along really well. We have such similar goals that sometimes it’s hard to tell where their work ends and mine begins. We’re not technically supposed to have favourite months, but this is why I like June so much. The busiest weeks of my assignment are finished by then and the humans have started to harvest a few early crops like asparagus and strawberries.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about autumn’s work, but I can’t remember the last time we actually met. Our schedules are simply too different from each other for either of us to stay awake long enough to collaborate. I’d love to see what they do with leaves someday, though.

Lydia: Oh, autumn leaves are beautiful. Have you really never seen them change colour?

Spring: No, I fall asleep long before that happens.

Lydia: What a shame. I know you’re currently in your busiest time of the year, so I won’t keep you much longer. One final question before you go – what are your plans for this year? Is there anything special we should be looking forward to other than those thunderstorms you whipped up for me?

Spring: I was feeling extra creative this year, so you’ll probably see cherry trees blooming earlier than usual. I hope you like them.

Lydia: That’s wonderful. Well, thank you for stopping by, and good luck.

Spring: Thank you!

 

 

Spring Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Happy spring to everyone in the northern hemisphere! I’m beyond relieved to see it finally arrive as far as the calendar goes. Here’s hoping Ontario will soon see lots of warm weather and the first little green shoots popping out of the soil as well.

In the last couple of years, I’ve written about the winter and summer worlds I’d like to visit, so today I’ll be talking about the spring worlds I’d like to see.

Yes, I’ll be writing another instalment in this series in the autumn of 2019, so do keep an eye out for it later on this year.

It turns out that there are a lot of books out there set during winter and summer, but there aren’t so many of them that are set during this time of the year. Putting together this list was a little tricky! If you have anything to add to it, do speak up. All of the authors I could think of were white, and many of them were British. It would be nice to add other voices to this list.

When I was growing up, many of my elementary, middle, and high school English teachers did poetry units in the spring. I don’t know why this pattern happened. It might have been done unintentionally, or maybe teachers are taught to give their students slightly easier* assignments for a while as the end of the school year grows closer. At any rate, I’ve come to associate this time of the year with poetry because of those experiences.

*Or at least I found them easier. I enjoy the subjective nature of interpreting poetry.

From “Easter 1916“, the title poem in Easter 1916 and Other Poems by W.B. Yeats

From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;

 

Spring is one of the two seasons of the year when the weather swings wildly between temperature extremes for those of us who live in certain climates. Here in Ontario, you could have a heavy snowstorm one day and warm, sunny 20 C (68 Fahrenheit for you Americans) weather the next.
This poem reminded me of those fluctuations, and it made me want to visit this setting for a few minutes despite the dangers of the World War I era.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is one of those childhood classics that I keep referencing over and over again in various posts.

If you’ve never read it, it’s about a young girl who moved from India to England to live with a relative after her parents died. The estate her relative lived in had once been grand but were now a bit neglected. She was placed in her new home during the cold part of the year, so it wasn’t until the spring that she realized there was a secret garden on the property that had been terribly neglected.

There were so many interesting lines in this book about tending gardens and what happens to plants when no one has looked after them for a long time. Obviously, there were metaphors in there about taking care of the people around you, too, but seeing the transformation of that garden from a lonely, weedy place to what it became later on makes me smile every time I reread those passages.

Winter never lasts forever, whether we’re talking about the actual season or as a metaphor for life difficulties. I love the hopeful message there, and I’d sure like to see the Secret Garden from this tale for myself.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that picture books are only – or even mostly –  for small children. There are plenty of picture books out there that are honestly even more meaningful for adult readers.

The illustrations in this book are of a farm in springtime. The grass is green, tall, and strong. Wild flowers have sprouted up everywhere. The weather is beautifully mild. Since we’re talking about a fictional fantasy world here, there is no mud or spring allergies like there might be in our world.

Even without the added appeal of seeing these rabbits in action, reading about what unconditional love looks like makes me eager to visit this world. It would be such a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

From “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a poem from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
The speaker in this poem has lost someone he loved very much. Spring gives him hope that they’ll be reunited again somehow someday. I appreciate the hope he finds in the natural cycle of the seasons and the way that each new spring reminds him of both his love and his grief.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco

Confession: I’ve cried every single time I’ve reread this story.

It contains references to a world that many people have forgotten thanks to the miracle of vaccines. This was a place where epidemics ripped through communities and many families lost at least one child because of these horrific diseases.

After the main character became gravely ill, his family was advised to burn all of his toys in an attempt to stop the spread of those germs to other vulnerable people. Even his beloved stuffed rabbit was supposed to be destroyed.

The boy’s illness appeared to happen in winter or possibly early spring based on how the story was written. I liked seeing the transition he and his family went through from the long, dark days of his illness to what happened after spring arrived and he began feeling like his old self again. The changing of the weather was a beautiful metaphor for all of the other wonderful things that were happening in their lives.

Of course I wouldn’t actually want to be sick like this kid was, but it would be so interesting to see the velveteen rabbit in person and maybe even tell these characters about all of the medical marvels to come that someday were going to prevent future families from going through this same experience.

What books do you associate with spring?

 

My First Outdoor Walk This Spring

My first outdoor walk this spring happened this past weekend. Since it isn’t possible to magically transport one’s readers to Toronto to experience this for themselves for half an hour, I’ll tell you exactly what it was like.

The wind had a slight cold snap to it, and I shuddered a little bit every time it blew against me.

There were still dirty patches of snow on the ground. They were especially noticeable in parts of my neighbourhood that don’t get a lot of sunlight in the average day.

The sunnier places where other snowdrifts had recently melted were now soggy puddles of cigarette butts, lost receipts, candy wrappers, and other small pieces of garbage.

A few people were bundled up in big, warm coats like it was still winter. Others had transitioned to lighter spring  jackets.

Some of the dogs were still wearing their cold-weather jackets, too.

The ground was muddy in the places where it wasn’t paved over with cement. It was brown and dull just like the bare trees and most of the bushes.

But on the Other Hand….

I live in a city, but the contrast between the sky and the ground here reminds me a little of my neighbourhood.

There was no ice on the ground at all. I could walk as quickly as I wanted to without any fear of slipping and falling.

The temperature was warmer than it’s been in months.

No one was wearing toques, gloves, or scarves. Many people who were wearing heavier coats had left them unzipped. This isn’t something that happens when it’s truly cold outside.

Some of the dogs weren’t wearing any winter coats at all.

One guy was walking down the street while wearing  running shoes, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. I would have been chilly if I were him, but maybe he was from a much colder climate and found 10 C balmier than people in southern Ontario do.

When the sunlight touched my face, it felt warm. It’s always a happy surprise when that happens for the first time in the spring!

There were the beginnings of so many flowers poking up from the soil that I couldn’t begin to count them all. It’s too early for the majority them to have buds yet, but their stems were looking green and healthy.

I even saw two red flowers that had already begun to bloom. They must have either been recently transplanted from a warm indoor location or be varieties that don’t require many warm days at all before they bloom.

When I looked at the trees closely, I saw tiny buds on their branches.

Some parts of the sky were brilliantly blue. Toronto can go many weeks without a single clear day during the autumn and winter, so it was a thrill to look up and not see a thick layer of grey clouds overshadowing the sun and sky. It was like the world had doubled in size overnight.

Spring has finally, truly arrived in my city. I look forward to many long walks as the weather warms up. What are you looking forward to this spring?

Should You Exercise Outdoors in March?

If you live in a part of the world where March and the winter season in general isn’t cold, icy, and snowy, this post may not be helpful for you. (Also, I am a little jealous of your tropical or temperate environments at the moment!)

For everyone else, keep reading. I have some questions for you.

Is it a smart idea to exercise outdoors at this time of the year?

What should fitness enthusiasts keep in mind about working out in slippery conditions and when the weather patterns are shifting rapidly as the season changes from winter to spring?

Let’s dig into these questions as well as other some points that everyone should ponder before deciding whether or not exercising outdoors between the months of December and March is a good decision for them.

Your Gear

The right gear makes all the difference in the world when it’s raining one minute, snowing the next, and everything could and probably will freeze into a slippery mess overnight.

Do your shoes have a strong grip?

How warm is your coat?

Does it rain often enough in your community that waterproof gear is recommended?

How easy would it be for you to add or remove layers of clothing during your workout?

Will any of your sports equipment be damaged if it’s regularly exposed to snow, ice, rain, or freezing temperatures?

One of the many reasons why I don’t exercise outdoors during the winter has to do with the type of gear I have. It’s perfect for the other three seasons, but it doesn’t work so well when the ground is covered in snow or ice and with the windchill it feels like -20C outside.

Sure, I could buy shoes and outerwear that’s suited for these conditions, but this isn’t something I’m prioritizing. Indoor workouts suit me just fine for the time being. When my current gear wears out, I’ll revisit this topic then.

Your Current Health and Fitness Levels

I didn’t want this post to make any assumptions about the health and fitness levels of the people reading this post. Several of my friends are living with chronic physical health problems that limit what they’re able to do when they exercise no matter where they are or what season it is. This is even more true for them when there’s an increased danger of slipping on icy surfaces or tripping over piles of snow.

Even as someone who is able-bodied and in pretty good shape overall, I’m still extra cautious on slippery paths due to how many times I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists in the past. My body is strangely good at injuring itself in that way, so I try to avoid hurting myself yet again when I’m outside and the ground is slick.

Your Goals

The kinds of questions you’ll need to ask yourself for this section are going to vary quite a bit based on your interests and current physical abilities. So much depends on what kinds of exercise you’re doing and how much progress you’re hoping to make while the season changes from winter to spring.

All of the types of exercise I do can easily be done indoors, and many of them honestly work much better under those conditions given the part of the world I live in. For example, weightlifting outdoors on a snowy or rainy day honestly isn’t something I ever want to try!

In no way are my fitness goals hampered by indoor workouts. If anything, July and August is the time of the year when I tend to slack off a little in this department due to how muggy it is then and how much I dislike working up a sweat when the hot weather already has me perspiring.

This isn’t true for every sport, activity, or goal, though.

Your Neighbourhood

There are certain practical questions that should be asked before deciding whether exercising outdoors is a smart decision in the area where you live.

How often and how well are the roads shovelled and salted in your community? If you’re a cyclist, how safe would it be for you to ride on them after a big storm?

If there are sidewalks in your neighbourhood, how often and how well are they shovelled and salted? Is there truly enough space for joggers and pedestrians alike there?

Imagine you fell and broke a bone or sprained an ankle while working out. How long would it be before someone noticed that you needed assistance and came to help you?

What have you seen other fitness enthusiasts doing? If other people are exercising outdoors at this time of the year, that’s a good sign.

The sidewalks where I live are sometimes half-covered by mounds of snow that were ploughed off of the road.  At other times our sidewalks do have plenty of space on them to accommodate everyone, but after big storms there really is only enough room for a single-file line of walkers going each direction.

There are people here in Toronto who go out for a jog at all times of the year, but they’re pretty selective about where they go for their runs. I see many more of them once all of the ice has melted away for the year.

Your Personal Preferences

As you may have already guessed, this is something that ultimately boils down to personal preference once all of the practical and safety considerations have been taken into account.

I’m not someone who finds outdoor exercise all that enjoyable, so I’d much rather wait until spring has officially arrived and the sidewalks are free of ankle-spraining debris before I change how and where I workout.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you love exercising outside, good for you! Come tell me why and how it works for you in the comment section of this post.