The winter months on the prairies brought all the joys that a young child could want. Bitter cold temperatures and winds were only fended off by warm wool scarves and mittens, down filled jackets, and well insulated boots with a tread that made a fall doubtful. The wonderful white against the brilliant blue sky offered a beauty that rivals, and in some respects through the eyes of my childhood, surpasses the tropical locales I visited in my later years. My skates were a familiar sensation as they hung over my shoulder and bounced lightly against my back as I trekked once again to the local ice rink, it was a nightly event at a time when I did not worry about anything evil happening to me. I entered the community centre to sit on a cold wooden bench as I tied my skates on, unable to see what I was doing when I exhaled as my cloud of breath blocked my vision. I could never tie my skates up with my mittens on, I always had to wait once I had the first skate on, then tuck my hands away in their warm woolen nest to regain dexterity before attempting the second. With the second one on my only thought was to get to the ice where I could have freedom of movement, unencumbered by the limitations of a stride necessary to get me there. Now it was time to glide, beauty and grace in motion. Although occasionally interrupted by an abrupt pothole, dull edge, or puck in the back, I loved the sensation of fluid movement. Spinning in circles until I was dizzy, looking up at that beautiful black star filled sky as I glided backwards in a crossover, a camel toe glide, or a single turn jump that frequently found me warming the ice with my backside. Occasionally I would sneak away to a flooded part of another nearby park. There was never anyone there as the ice was usually lumpy and not in favourable condition for an ‘unbridled’ skate, the darkness enveloped me and only the somewhat distant glow of streetlights helped me determine where to place my blade. Every once in a while though it was magic, no one there to see my imperfections, only me with a big desire to achieve great things! The joy I felt was sublime.
Today is the first day of snow in this place I now call home, and the thrill is every bit as real as it was all those years ago. Since moving from the prairies, winters the way I remember them growing up have become a bit of an enigma. The west coast winters by comparison are much heavier and wetter, and the unending gray skies gnawed at my usual winter euphoria. For almost 30 years, I had to flee the coast to grasp a glimpse of what I once knew to be normal. Then, one day not so long ago, I awoke to a morning much like this one. A veil of white covering the drabness of the autumn forest floor, brilliant bright flakes just beginning to embrace the branches and needles of the fir trees, and in my mind I can hear the crunch of this freshly fallen powder under the soul of my boots.
Perhaps, for me, winter is the incarnate of youth.
Many of this seasons guests who stay with us are of the same ilk. We all feel the undeniable draw of winter’s whisper in our ear, the playfulness of tiny white crystals falling from the sky to change the appearance of the land from a tired fall palette to a fresh, clean, new beginning. A roaring fire, a warm hot tub to soothe the mind and body under a kaleidoscope of stars, hot chocolate, warm slippers, cozy socks, holiday lights, snow angels, sledding, and snowball fights. Skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowshoeing, and more are just minutes away at the resort, and I’m hoping to one day convince Dennis to flood the area where he parks his truck because it would make the perfect little skating rink. I’m not holding my breath.
On mornings like this I am reminded of how blessed I am to be living this life in this place, and how happy it makes me to share it with others…