Winter and I have a relationship that is just a little bit strained.
When I see the first snowfall, I do feel a certain sense of reckless joy, perhaps a remnant of childhood that has not yet been beaten down by adult practicalities. I see the flakes falling down from a leaden grey sky, and I still feel intense anticipation. Snowmen, snowball fights, skating, sledding and of course the pinnacle of a kid’s winter joy, Christmas.
Then the snow honeymoon ends, and I remember what it is like to drive to work in winter weather, the roads that wind across the open, snow-driven fields of Prince Edward Island. The drifts that I am not quite sure the car will go through, and the absolute white-outs of blowing snow that blur the edge of the road. I whine and complain a fair bit when I attempt outdoor fun and festivities in cold weather. What can I say? I just don’t like to be cold.
Now that I have children of my own, I marvel at their fortitude in the face of winter chill. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember when I, too, embraced the season.
As children growing up in P.E.I., my brother and I spent many hours outside in the snow every day. We would tie our skates together, sling them over our shoulders and walk a mile or so across the fields to the pond. Along with other kids on the road we would clear the snow off the ice and lace up our skates. That feeling of flying across the ice, the blue sky above and the air so crisp and cold it burned the inside of our nostrils. We would drag our toboggans and crazy carpets out to the hills and go coasting for hours, until all of our layers of clothes and wool socks were soaked.
My grandmother was an avid cross-country skiier. I loved to go out on the skis with her, schlussing along the trails though the pine woods behind her house. It was profoundly quiet, except for that sound of the skis and the song of the birds. There was the smell of the pines mixed with juicy fruit gum that she always chewed. Sometimes we would take inner tubes out with us and slide down the hill back in the woods, barreling down at terrifying speeds, my grandmother right out there with us.
I think of those days of winter glory often. My grandmother’s days of skiing came to an end years ago, when Alzheimer’s disease took her memory and her abilities away. Does she remember those bright cold days when she looks out her window? I dearly wish that.
So, I feel like I must honour those memories. I drag my freezing cold self out into the snowbank, I strap on the snowshoes and set off across the fields. I want my daughters to experience the winter as I did, with miles of untouched snow calling their names, with hot chocolates and deep, dreamless exhausted sleep that can only be brought on by hours of freezing fresh air and exercise.