Most Canadians have a love/hate relationship with snow. Every car has a snow shovel, a snow scraper and some vehicles even have snow chains waiting in the trunk. I used to have a set of snow tires on rims which I put on the car every October in preparation for the first heavy snowfall. We all have our horror stories of finding our way through snow. We spin tales of our first childhood experience with snow, wishes for snow days or being snowed in so we don’t have to go to work or school. Freshly fallen snow can be a source of wonder and delight, especially if the snowfall is on Christmas Eve. Who can forget the joy in that excited shout, “It’s snowing!”
One December I headed out with my young family to spend Christmas holidays with relatives in Thunder Bay. It’s a long trip from home and the light dims early at that time of year. Half way through the journey the wind starting whipping the snowflakes into a frenzy called a white-out. Car headlights are useless as the beams reflect back at you. Dimensions are distorted; no up, down or sideways is discernible. On this drive I tried to lock my sight on to the vehicle in front, a transport truck with a small red rear light showing on its back left hand corner. Luckily an inner voice told me I was being stupid so we pulled into the next motel. Only one room was left and, I kid you not, sifted snow had piled its way into the closet.
I’ve never enjoyed driving a car on snowy roads. I survived 30 winters in Timmins Ontario, where snow can be expected from September to June. I dare not estimate the number of driveways I have shovelled during those years. Some snowdrifts completely covered my car. I built a carport and a garage in an effort to minimize the coverage yet I still had to clear a way to the road, which was often not plowed until midday, creating a crusty mound of snow at the end of the entryway.
Rolling up sticky snow to create snowmen never loses its allure. Everyone has memories of building snow forts, throwing snowballs, or sledding down hillsides. I satisfied my wish to leave the dark side of winter wonderlands behind by retiring in Victoria, British Columbia. The family gathered at the homestead on the final Christmas In Timmins and the young ones honoured us by sculpting two snow replicas of my wife and me in tropical accessories.
There are many words used to describe types of snow; sludge, scrump, slurry, floaters, are some I’ve heard. Many words come attached to curses. Being a poet, my favourite is ‘snowy-dews’; those jumbo sized flakes that meander from whisper-still skies to melt on contact with parka-clad humans. A panoramic view of these fragile crystal structures makes me want to softly sing with a vibrato Bing Crosby-esque voice.