Friday, 7 October 2016

Remembering Winter

It's snowing outside, that Calgary kind of snow that whips by in the wind, blowing up and down, swirling in circles, dancing its way slowly to come to rest on whichever surface gravity finally finds. There's not a lot a snow, just a skiff. This is the first of the year. It will go soon, and then, soon after, be replaced by the real snows of winter, the snows which will settle and stay from November through to April.

The parking lots and roads are already clear, heated by the unnatural furnaces of engines contained in the thousands of cars driving by each day. These are the busy roads, the ones which clear quickly. Back in some side street, in some small, quiet neighbourhood within the city, where the roads are traveled by few, the snow will stay, perhaps for a day or so. Then the fall weather will warm up once again; there will even be days of rain.

This is a warning, a shot over the bow, reminding us that we live in the Great White North, a land dominated almost half the year by winter, or the potential for winter. The only place in Canada where this is not true is Southwest BC, covering Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, the Sunshine Coast, and Southern Vancouver Island. Since this is where the vast majority of people live in BC, many west coast residents forget that even in their home province, just a few hours north of their damp residences, the power of winter increases its grip. Even BC has cold weather for much of the year; just not the Vancouver region.

I don't mind the winter. I don't mind the cold. I'm used to it, having spent a great many days outdoors in the wet coast weather, living in the kind of misty rain which seeps into every pore of your body, notwithstanding whatever laughingly waterproof garments you wear. I've worked on the mill deck in near freezing weather, swinging a sledge hammer 8 hours a day, splitting blocks for the shingle sawyers. I've sat still as stone while the snow fell on me, waiting for a deer to crack the forest edge a hundred yards away, waiting for that moment, completely unaware of how cold I really was until I tried to move.

It's harder for me now. My blood flow is poor, especially in my legs. Moving about in the wheelchair means there is no muscle motion to generate body heat. When I head outside in my power wheelchair, I am prone to getting cold, even on days when the temperature is relatively warm. Now, in winter, I have to take extra care not to get too exposed to a chill. I am no longer that man who could keep going in spite of the weather. I may like winter, but it no longer likes me. I'm even wearing a sweater indoors today. Still, at least I can look out my window and remember.

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