A Californian finally feels spring winter in Sweden

This week it seemed like spring in Stockholm. The snow is melting, leaving thin sheets of ice over the shadowy depressions in our park. There are green shoots poking through the earth, and the temperature got into the high 40’s probably.

But I am not deceived.  I know the winter will return.

But it will be what Swedes call spring winter. This is mostly a northern mountain phrase, but to a Californian it goes for Stockholm as well.  It is the time of year when the sun is returning but the winter refuses to go.

In years past it has been the hardest time of year.  My body feels the winter ending, feels the sun warming my closed eyelids as I stand and face the heat.  But the winter does not end. I still dress the children in snowsuits, I still bundle up, my feet still freeze.

It seemed like spring stalled, leaving me in a winter limbo.

I am a minority on this, I think.  People seem to love spring winter, getting to ski in the sun, camp and ice skate, that sort of thing.

And this year I get that.  I get spring winter. I have finally been in Sweden long enough for my soul to calibrate not to the snow, not to the temperature but to the sun.

The sun returns slowly, inching forward, but then near the end of February seeming to come 10 minutes earlier each day and linger well after we have come back from work and preschool.

In Sweden they do not measure seasons by the calendar but by the weather.  So spring comes when the temperature is above freezing for so many days in a row.  That sort of thing.

But that does not reflect the joy of the sun returning, even behind overcast clouds, even in a freezing wind like today. So we get spring winter.  And I get to know that in less than three weeks, we will be tipping over the spring equinox and suddenly days here will be longer than in the US.

And that brings the promise of summer and of the forest and the blueberries and the lake by our summer cottage and riding my bike to the country store miles away.


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