I write this on a day in February 2017 when freezing rain is pelting Toronto, Ontario, a city that this year has had little snow. As much as I’m not a fan of winter, I do miss the snow.
Snow in winter is ingrained in our Canadian ways. Perhaps Victoria on Vancouver Island sees the white stuff rarely, but the rest of us usually can count on many weeks, if not months, of snow in all its forms. Fluffy piles. Wet, heavy stuff well-suited to rolling snowballs and building forts. Heavy snow whipped by winds that makes driving treacherous and leads to the happy Canadian proclamation of “Snow Day!”, when roads are considered too dangerous for school buses to traverse, and students get to stay home. There’s a saying that there are no atheists in battlefield foxholes; there are also no atheists among Canadian schoolkids of all ages when the weather report is predicting a storm of sufficient magnitude to shut down travel, and therefore schools. Praying for a snow day is a unifying national sport.
We learn from baby-age about the white stuff, catching snowflakes on the tongue before we can walk. I’m two-and-half years old in this picture, complete with a toddler-sized shovel. We learn to walk with slipperiness underfoot: a short-strided, shuffling penguin-walk that keeps us upright. We don’t even know we know how to do it, until the day we meet someone from a warmer climate who has moved to Canada and, as a adult, tries to navigate a snow-packed sidewalk for the first time.
Yes, snow can be a pain in the butt: it can be back-aching work to clean off vehicles, shovel drives and sidewalks and, sometimes, even shovel snow off the roofs of houses. It also can create a wonderful beauty, particularly as it covers the frozen grey and muck of fall’s end and provides a canvas for the sun to paint blues, mauves and pinks across the landscape.
While I’ve never been much of a winter person – the cold, the short days and the pain of bundling up to walk anywhere all make me cranky – the sight of fresh snow in the sunlight makes me that little girl again, mesmerized by all the pretty sparkles strewn as far as the eye can see.
Photo: Mary Teahen