Ah, spring! The time of love, the singing of birds, flowers, greening grass, budding trees …

No, wait, wrong place! Here spring is the time of melting snow, ice, more melting, more snow, more ice. Oh, yes, and the time for youth to lose their heads in love, if they don’t first crack them on the pavement.

Strange as it may seem, in Russia spring begins on March 1. All the seasons begin not on equinoxes and solstices, but on the first days of months. That works well in fall, where in Siberia by September 1 the leaves are already turning, and is of course appropriate for winter. But to discern Siberian spring in early March is a learned skill.

To you it probably looks like winter. But there’s just something in the air. One can begin to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, which just a month ago were pitifully weak. The days are getting longer. And the first melting has begun—a sure sign that spring has sprung.

Now the ground is a patchwork of bare pavement, packed snow, and shiny ice. Nighttime temperatures are still below zero F., but the sun raises them nearly to the thawing point. In the shady places it’s still winter, but where the sun’s heat has done its work, the ice, tired and cranky from thawing, freezing, melting, and freezing again, is seeking revenge on unwary victims.

Now that the temperatures are warmer, there’ll be more snow. Then the melting will begin in earnest. Everything will turn to streams of water, puddles, and mud. Then it will all freeze again, then thaw. More snow. Rain. And so on, until the last of the snow has melted, possibly by early May, but maybe later. I speak not as a prophet. I speak from experience.

Ah, spring! To savor Siberian spring is an art developed over time. Believe me, it does have its charm for those who are attuned to it. I’ll keep you posted.