The Norwegians I know who have been to Australia, even lived in Australia, say one of the things they missed the most was a sense of the seasons changing, something they felt was demonstrably absent from their time down south. Being from the south of Australia, I never really understood this claim; it’s only way up north that they talk about “The Wet” and “The Dry” as opposed to the four seasons. But after nine years here in Norway, I begin to see the difference with greater clarity, and it is not really about four seasons at all, it’s about at least eight.

Now, in early March, there is often still snow and ice about, and not only that, there is frost that reaches deep into the soil, reminding the dormant seeds and bulbs to go back to sleep; it’s not yet dawn. This year, however, almost all the ice and snow has melted after an unusually warm February, with a lot of rain and—very unusual for this part of Norway—wind. But, spring has not come yet. Spring, as I describe it to my almost-five-year-old daughter, is when the trees get their leaves back, the birds and animals bear the results of winter snuggling, and colour returns to the earth in a confetti-like spray of flowers and fresh, green leaves. This is not what we have now. We are in between, balancing, waiting . . .

These tiny seasons between seasons happen four times a year in Norway. Sometimes they last for weeks, sometimes as little as a day, but they are very real, and painfully tantalising. There is the time between spring and summer when everything is green, because the flowers have already begun to die. The light lasts from before we wake until we are ready for bed, but I still need a jacket to sit outside; the sun’s rays reach my skin, but it’s a whisper of a touch, filled with promise.

There is the time when summer is over, the temperature has dropped and the days are noticeably shorter, but the leaves have not yet begun to turn. It’s a farewell we feel but refuse to acknowledge as we shiver in short sleeves over a grill that doesn’t light as easily in a sudden, fresh breeze.

There is the time when the leaves have gone from the trees, and everything has a grey pall, but there is not yet any snow to brighten the short days and give children something to play in, slide on, fight with.

And there is now. It is not yet spring, nor is it still winter. The season I breathed in today as my feet crunched on gravel that only last week prevented me from slipping on the ice, is somewhere in between, poised, waiting for the alarm to buzz and wake my sleeping world, bring it back to life. This part of the year is like a woman going into labour: it is not the birth, nor is she simply pregnant any longer. Things are happening. I can feel them, but I can’t yet see them.

Winter is over. Spring is coming. And I am dizzy with the anticipation.

Photo credit: Snowdrops by the River Rother via photopin (license)