Spring has finally arrived in Astana. The nights are above freezing, and all of the trees have started leafing out. We have our windows open all the time, and the city shut off the heating. The sun rises while I'm exercising and sets after the time the children are put to bed. The children have to mow the lawn this week, and I've put my tomato and basil plants outside.
I love spring. It's my favorite season. I love the new, bright green color of all the leaves as they emerge. I love the flowers. I love the longer days. I love the first strawberries of the season, leading into summer fruits and vegetables. I love putting away my winter clothes, and wearing sandals or flip-flops every day. Spring is the season where life, light, and warmth return to the world, washing away the memories of a time when they were hiding.
Spring here is even more wonderful than in every other place that we've lived. After five months of continual snow cover, seeing green grass again feels like a miracle. When going outside in the winter requires multiple layers of clothes, simply walking out the door with no thought at all is an unalloyed pleasure. And enjoying the long, long evenings is recompense for all those short winter days when the sun didn't peek over the horizon until after nine in the morning.
The entire city has turned green, and every time I drive somewhere, the bushes are a little more covered in new leaves, more trees have decided to come out of dormancy, and I've even spotted a few flowers peeking out. All of the people have come out of hiding also, with the shrieks of children playing in the neighborhood playground floating through the warm evening air long past the time when our own children have been put to bed. Eleanor has asked if perhaps they too could have a night or two a week when they could enjoy the long evenings. Our neighbors can be seen outside, working in their gardens and yards, just as happy to be outside as the children are.
The only complaint I have about spring here is that it is so late. The city turned off our heating the last week of April - and we've still had several below-freezing nights after they turned the heat off. The house is, ironically, colder now than it was in the depth of winter. I remember when we regularly filled out pool in Uzbekistan during the first week of April - and I'm pretty sure the river was still frozen over the first week of April here.
I'm used to seeing the trees leaves start peeping out in March, not May. I grew up in North Carolina, where daffodils will sometimes come up in February - here there are no daffodils, as the bulbs would all freeze and die over the winter. I've seen a few irises and tulips - which I'm used to seeing bloom in March or April - but I think that I won't see any flowers from them until June. Our neighbor's apple tree is just about to come into bloom. In Uzbekistan, it's already cherry and apricot season. Here, the apricot trees haven't even bloomed yet.
The worst part about spring being late is that it is something that we all want so desperately. I've found that it's been easier to bear the cold winter months because they're winter months. They're colder than any winter months I've ever experienced, but winter is always cold. One doesn't expect to wear flip-flops in winter, because it's winter. Even March wasn't too bad - we were so excited about the snow finally melting that the warmer temperatures (sometimes above freezing) felt like a gift.
But once I got to April, I was ready for spring. April is never a winter month, it's a spring month. It's the month where we can look forward to seventy-degree days and flowers and green. April in Astana is not a spring month. It's a month of teasing when the weather pretends that it's considering warming up before hitting you with the heaviest snowfall of the year. The days get longer and the light looks like it should be warm and springlike, but it isn't. Instead, it's an entire month of frustrated desire.
Brandon is probably tired now of all my complaining, but it kills me to see all the cherry blossom pictures when the trees outside our windows still look like dead sticks. Even Brandon, who likes winter, had to agree that it's just wrong for the trees to wait until May to leaf out. The months of warmth (temperatures above seventy) here are definitely shorter than the cool and cold months, so having those days take so long to show up just feels like robbery.
Thankfully, we have finally, finally made it past false spring and into real spring. When I think of winter, it's a bad memory that I shudder away from. I'm looking forward to another beautiful, glorious Kazakh summer where it's hardly ever dark and I almost never have to turn on the air conditioning. It's gonna be great. And when the little voice in my head whispers that winter will return, I tell it to shut up. It's finally made it to the warm and it's beautiful part of the year, and I intend to fully enjoy it.