Friday Essay – Winter Came Early

The snow flew in the middle of October.  I figured it would melt and we’d have a few more fall days.  Then I went on holiday to the West Coast – sunny, warm, rainy, chilly – no snow, no below freezing temperatures. When I got home it was winter.  Full on, two-foot-piles-of-snow, well-below-freezing, hat-scarf-coat-mitts-boots bloody winter!  And, I am being a whiny, sucky baby-pants about it.  I’m not sure why, either.  I suspect it’s because it was still winter well into March this year – though we did have a pretty mild one last time round.  I have lived on Baffin Island where just because it’s minus 60 degrees does not mean you get to stay home!  So, it isn’t as though I don’t know what winter feels like.  And, I’m certainly well aware of the fact that winter comes to these parts every year. So, the other night as I was walking the dog by the river I was reminded that winter is different from the other seasons. Certainly each season is unique, but I think winter is most special precisely because I often have to consciously remind myself of its beauty and its purpose in my life. Spring, Summer and Autumn all have their colours and scents and warmth.  Winter’s colours are black, brown, white and grey and she has no warmth to her at all.  Sometimes I don’t have to be reminded of her beauty.  Sometimes I find the first snowfall absolutely magical.  About five years ago the first good snow fall we had arrived on November 25 and it was glorious.  Fat, fluffy snow-feathers floating down, delicately blanketing my world, muffling the sounds of traffic and city while I stood under the white falling sky marvelling at the awesome movie-quality of it all. I didn’t have to remind myself of her beauty and purpose that time.  This year, though, she slapped me in the face to remind me! I like to walk my dog by the river because there is something spiritual about watching the water flow (and at least some of the river is open all year) and something spiritual about being by natural water. That night I thought we’d just walk the few blocks to the river then turn around and come home again.  But something urged me to continue along the path that follows the river, and then at my favourite spot where the bush opens up and view is unobstructed I had to stop.  I had to stop and really observe what was there:the black flowing water, orange and green streetlight reflected and shimmering on her surface; the spindles of tree branches tracing themselves across the backdrop of water and kitten grey clouds; the white riverbank stark, sharp cutting right to the water.  She is beautiful.  She whipped her icy wind fingers across my face that night to remind me of her frightening beauty and her stark seething quiet.  Slow down.  Be quiet.  Write.  Think.  Sleep.  Love.