I want to lie down where the snow is deep. Lie on my back where the silence of snow is thick, and where great white drifts drop into curves and hollows round the bases of trees. Even I am not sure what my heart’s secret is, but I know it has to do with winter, with the slow wheeling stars and the stillness of snow. – Michael Spooner
Where is winter? It’s the middle of January and the view from my window is sadly lacking in white. Instead, an array of brown, green, and grey meets my eye, thankfully with the addition of a bright blue sky on this particular day. But the mountain of snow that usually dominates the school’s parking lot across the street is non-existent and the teachers are able to park their cars in their usually spaces. The sidewalks are clean, so moms with strollers are out for morning exercise. People aren’t bundled up like they should be for this time of year; a light jacket and some gloves are sufficient. All of these things may sound convenient, really, but it’s a matter of great sadness for me. As big a pain as winter can be, it’s supposed to happen every year and, when it doesn’t, I feel cheated.
The first year I moved to western Ontario, to the coast of Lake Huron, I heard from everybody about how awful the winters are, especially from my Mississauga-raised boyfriend. I laughed off the warnings; after all, I’m from Muskoka and know all about snowy winters. Yet, sure enough, winter hit with a vengeance. We shovelled daily and couldn’t keep up. As soon as we managed to clear the driveway in the early morning darkness so Jason could leave for work, the snow plow would go by and create another 3-foot wall at the end of the driveway. Sometimes I didn’t go anywhere because I couldn’t lift that shovel anymore. Of course that was also the year I had to commute to Toronto once a week to finish my degree. I had some memorably stormy, snowy drives.
My childhood winter memories are of mornings when the thermometer registered as low as -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) on a regular basis. My parents bundled me up like Bonhomme. I could hardly walk but that didn’t matter. My sister and I rolled around in the snow, making impressive networks of tunnels in the high snowbanks that circled the driveway. The snow was a natural playmate, wonderfully conducive to creative building projects. On rare special nights, my parents would wake us up, wrap us in sleeping bags, and carry us out into the middle of the frozen lake to see the northern lights.
That was three years ago, and the last two winters have been ridiculously mild and almost snow-less. There’s no shovelling, but there’s also no sledding, no skiing, no tingly red cheeks, no wet mitts on the heat register, no icicles to suck, no snow forts or snowball fights to have, no stormy snow blizzards that shake the house. It’s downright depressing. Most upsetting of all was the early spring that hit last March, with temperatures in the 20s Celsius and the local fruit trees budded. When the temperature crashed, the fruit farmers lost their crop. There were few apples, cherries, peaches, and plums in Ontario in 2012. This past weekend, I went outside and saw bright green buds forming on the lilac tree and on my Japanese rose bush. I hope our poor local farmers don’t miss out on yet another year’s harvest.
It irritates me when the weather reporters on the radio sound happy about having “some nicer weather,” as they forecast temperatures above freezing. Give me frigidly cold temperatures any day over the mucky, slushy, greyness that hovers around zero degrees Celsius. This isn’t winter; this is some kind of winterish purgatory that needs to go away. If the skies would open up and dump the last two years’ worth of snow on top of Ontario right now, and if the thermometer plummeted along with it, I’d be thrilled.