Shocked: A Homecoming Story

I was gone for a bit there — being a teacher’s wife, I’d been tapped to help chaperone 38 students on a trip to Japan, so that was our spring break. It wasn’t our first time in Japan; Andrew and I had spent 3 weeks there in July of 2008. However, this was a very different way to experience the country and as far as I know it went well and I’d totally do it again.

So spring break in Japan. It was cherry blossom season. So beautiful and clean. I subconsciously expected it to be similarly clean and blossomy in Steinbach upon our arrival home… but my brain knew better. Even though I expected snow, dirt, slush, mud, the contrast upon our arrival home has been… breathtaking.

When I was about 14, my family spent spring break with relatives in Abbotsford. I think all Manitobans (especially Mennonites) have BC cousins who tell us about how nice and green everything is in February already or maybe even all winter, I forget exactly how it goes. Something like that, probably. I thought that sounded nice. I’d been there as a child but only when I was 14 did I really absorb all the vivid greenery. I had a fantastic spring break/Easter/birthday visit. Everything was fun and bright and clean and happy. It really sunk into my young psyche. I figured this was my life now.

Then we got on a plane and flew back to Winnipeg.

Looking out the plane window and saw patches of white and splotches of muck and tones of grey for as far as the eye could see.


And boy was I depressed. Even before the plane landed, the lack of colour hit me pretty hard. It was a virtual moonscape for pete’s sake.

Then I got used to it. It was just life here.

But one day, a brilliant green mist emerged on the trees and shrubs in the distance. The scent of very alive soil began to rise. Suddenly everything burst into bloom. A new shock.

I’m always joyfully surprised by Manitoba’s late spring. Turns out I don’t mind a little latent energy. Storing it. Keeping it well hidden. Until, BLOOM. That feeling of euphoria hits me every year. I’m not sure I can articulate it very well but there’s this thing that makes me a weird Manitoban; I actually like this. I don’t think I’m the only one, but hey I can’t read minds. It just seems to me that others can hardly suppress their joy when these seasons change (try taking a walk in public without motorists showing off to you, honking at you, calling to you — it’s like clockwork each year — spring fever gets to ’em and the predictability is frankly hilarious).

You may fight me on this but I don’t think that same severe element of surprise would be there if the greenery just never left. If we didn’t live in a greyscape for whoever long it is, that time between the magical white snow melting and the trees and grass arriving. That time when all we see is dirt and mud and muck on everything… here in our ancient lakebed home. Then that sudden, drastic change.

And this time I’m leaning into it. I guess as I do with all true and unpleasant things.

Look. I spent a week in a very gorgeous place. Cherry blossom season in Japan is one of the most beautiful sights in the world, I think. It was always something I wanted to see and it was exactly as lovely as I expected it to be. And it is most certainly not lovely here right now (we had a blizzard last night, lol). I find myself documenting the ugliness here because I know it won’t last and I’ll be amazed. But also I think I’ve become a little bit tired of taking pretty pictures. It’s ugly right now. Let’s call a spade a spade. Also I know, I can feel it, that the ugliness will quite suddenly disappear and it will be amazing. I hope I’m ready for the beauty season to begin.

(Featured photo: comparing a random pic I took out of the tour bus in Osaka, with a picture of my niece exploring Mitchell at Easter. These pictures were taken just days apart. Yet worlds apart.)