icelands spring takes two steps forward and one back

Like Yukoners, Icelanders love talking about weather. Regardless of the actual weather outside, and regardless of the season, one can always discuss…

Like Yukoners, Icelanders love talking about weather.

Regardless of the actual weather outside, and regardless of the season, one can always discuss the weather.

And like Yukoners, who know all too well the seemingly endless wait for spring, Icelanders know the ache too.

But while in the Yukon, you can count on skiing in March and April, with long sunny days of minus 20 degrees Celsius, and no green showing until late May at the earliest, in Iceland, you never know what the day will get up to.

There is, after all, a very good reason for the Icelandic saying: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.”

So, as I write this, after a lovely warm spell in February and early March, winter is here again in full force with all the nastiness our latitude and coastal environment allow.

Though it’s actually three degrees Celsius in Reykjavík, it doesn’t feel like it, due to the icy north wind blowing dry snow straight out into the Atlantic,

Did I say wind?

Well, storm is more like it.

Cars come close to blowing off the roads; no scarf or coat seems warm enough and biking within the town is nearly impossible.

Most animals seek shelter. Farmers worry about frost in their empty fields. Frost kills grass roots.

(A snow cover shelters the roots from the effects of this biting cold but, alas, you never know when it will snow in this cold country. And when it melts away the landscape is dull grey and brown.)

Yet, in a striking contrast to this grey, blustery and bitterly cold day, the buds are out on most trees after the warm spell.

A warm spell like we had earlier fools most the imported species, even those that have been here for decades.

However, the Icelandic birch has begun to bud.

This tree doesn’t let itself be fooled by warm days in January like the imported trees do.

Global warming or not, the birch only follows the rising of the sun, and is not tempted by warm days if the sunlight does not last long enough.

Thus, only after the equinox, can one expect to see the Icelandic birch bud.

And right on time, birch has responded to the call. So, despite the awful weather lately, spring must be just around the corner.

To underline this, the daffodils, crocuses and blue bells have also begun to show their pretty colours, though they shiver and rustle in this freezing wind.

Now, whether they’ll survive these cold spells of spring is anyone’s guess.

Every spring, scientists are interviewed and warn about the danger to imported species, but most of them seem to survive, bluebells and daffodils included.

And this time around, according to foresters that have been quoted in local papers lately, the trees are safe.

But I can’t stress enough the joy it brings a winter-weary northerner to see these signs of green early on in the spring, despite the bitter gale and grey skies.

But then, I don’t have to tell you that.

As Yukoners, you know that all too well.