A glimmer of light on a snowy Montreal day
This year’s winter was awfully slow to start and as someone who loves the seasons, I found myself grumbling under my breath about how global warming was ruining everything, including my desire to stay inside and drink red wine while watching the snow fall, and my snowboarding season…not to mention the polar bears. My groans were met with eye rolls from my friends, and promises that as soon as January hit and I found myself mid winter, facing knee-deep snow and 30 degrees below temperatures, I would deeply regret ever saying I missed winter. I was convinced they were wrong.
Since the snow and temperatures started falling inMontreal about three weeks ago, I’ve been trying to enjoy the winter weather and prove my friends wrong. And I think I’ve been pretty successful at it. That is, until this morning.
This morning it was cold. I had turned my heat off in the middle of the night because my room was getting too stuffy to sleep (the pains of living in an apartment with baseboard heaters), and woke up in an ice box. The tiles on my bathroom floor were so cold that my toes burned of what I could only assume was frostbite when the hot shower water hit them. I forgot my scarf at home, slipped on a patch of ice on my way out the door, dropped my mittens in a snow…I could go on. I was wet-mittened and cold as I slumped down in my seat in an overcrowded CLSC waiting room with hundreds of other flu-symptomed patients to begin my three-hour wait. It wasn’t until I pulled out my waiting room reading material that I realized how much I needed a reminder that winter in Canada, or Montreal more specifically, really isn’t so bad after all.
Montreal-born Stuart McLean, the infamous voice of CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe, puts a much needed glimmer of hope into our dark winters in his essay, “Approaching Winter,” from his book The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks. I highly encourage anyone suffering from mid-winter blues to take a minute to read the story below. Because upon leaving the CLSC and hopping onto the bus, I began to notice, instead of the cold, dreary weather, the amount of snow-suited kids being pulled along in sleds, laughing, and the beautiful fat snowflakes that were lightly falling to the ground. When I arrived at work, I saw someone has posted the following video.
Instead of watching it and shuddering, I thought to myself, with pride, “what a wonderful thing it is, that we live in a city that genuinely appreciates its seasons.”
By Stuart McClean
I received a note earlier this week from Pond Inlet in Canada’s northern Nunavut territory. My friend Ruby wrote to say that the sun has disappeared from the sky. But my sun prisms, wrote Ruby, are still hanging in my window. What Ruby didn’t say was that where she lives, a land of twenty-four-hour darkness, the prisms in her window are hanging as an act of faith as much as anything.
Even here in the south you can sense the days shortening and feel the darkness of winter, which has already settled around Ruby’s house, coughing its chilly way out of the arctic with little you and me in its sights.
The wind and rain battered Vancouver this week, and in the east the skies have been low and grey. I spent last weekend with my back to winter, my toque pulled low, raking the last of the leaves off the deck. Then I headed down to the lake and covered up the boat, something I should have done weeks ago, chastising myself as I fumbled with the blue plastic tarp.
It’s getting dark. It’s getting cold. It’s been windy and wet. And we all know it’s going to get darker, and colder, and windier before this winter is finished with us. To make matters worse, I just ate three Girl Guide cookies. And I’m sorry, but I don’t even like Girl Guide cookies.
But, as you stand there on your corner with your umbrella blown inside out, and as I head down to my basement to see if the boots, and the mitts, and the scarves are anywhere to be found, there is something we should both remember. Up in Pond Inlet, in Ruby’s house, that sun prism is still hanging in the window, and every once in a while, even in the dark arctic night, it catches the headlight from a snowmobile, or a water truck rumbling by, and each time it does, it gives off a brief flash of spring.
We spend our summers trying to get outside as much as we can. These are the nights it’s good to be home.
There is still a month to go before the darkest day of the year, but with every passing day, we are not only moving loser to darkness, but to all of the festivals of light:Kwanza, Hanukkah, Diwali, Christmas. And to your birthday, for that matter, and to the happy day when the sun rises just that little bit earlier, lingers a little longer.