Sunday, 17 November 2013


EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL


The Snow Fell Without a Break

 
The weather graphic in Friday morning’s paper was a bit ominous. Sleet slid from a concrete sky all afternoon. By suppertime the snow was swirling like trade rumours on a sports network hockey panel.

 
Winter. If only it remained a brilliantly obscure Rolling Stones ballad (Goat’s Head Soup: side two, track three). But this is Canada. Our sitting Prime Minister had his first book published two weeks ago. Its audacious topic? Hope? Nope. Hockey. Citizens from coast to coast were relieved to learn that no affairs of state had required his undivided attention. When it comes to November and winter Canadians are akin to loyal hockey fans. All of us keep praying that this will be the year (it won’t come). An entire nation is cheering for climate change. Give us empirical proof of the glorious effects of carbon emissions on global warming so we may pay for more of them and ratchet up temperatures six or nine degrees.

 
It snowed Friday night and all day Saturday and well into this Sunday morning. Looks like it’s here to stay until Easter. Centimetres don’t do this storm justice; we got more than a foot, possibly 18 inches or more. The shovelling was not a mere chore, but full-time work.

 
Our street was an idyll Saturday morning, pristine, buried in the mounting, muting purity of a heavy snowfall. I stood listening for the dedicated, monotonous activity of the Pileated Woodpecker that lives in the backyard. I searched the birch trees and bushes for the two Blue Jays that tend to hang around out front. A tabby cat went out and went back in white, pausing only to give me a really dirty squint. I tried to explain to him that as godlike as I am, I’m not quite godlike about everything; only some things, like feeding him or knowing the weather outside the back door is exactly the same as the weather outside the front door. I went on to explain that this simple fact makes the flawed hierarchy of ancient pantheons so much more interesting and human than the omnipotent, benevolent and benign monotheist religions currently in vogue. The cat was not impressed. I lit a cigarette and then opened my first beer. The tin retort echoed like a rifle shot.

 
The snow is powder, not wet clumps of heart attack stuff, so push and heave. Where to put it without too much extra labour? Dirt dispersal from the Tom, Dick and Harry tunnels in The Great Escape was equally problematic. The snow kept falling and I thought of Canute the Great on the beach and the ceaseless rolling of the North Sea tides; that vaunted intellect Cher who admitted she could never turn back time despite numerous plastic surgeries. Funny what crosses your mind whilst doing drudgery and trying to ignore the pain in your back.

 
I cleared the front porch, the driveway and the sidewalk. I next cleared the sidewalks of our neighbours to the left and right of us. I then dug my way around the side of the house and cleared the patio area, the path to the back gate and then the waste bin area in the alley. Upon repeating the entire process a second and third time, I began to muse about Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and the futility of it all. Modern Canadians are a lot like that ancient Corinthian king forever sentenced to shoulder his boulder up a mountain slope, never permitted to crest the peak and let the rock roll down the other side; we shovel and we keep on shovelling the same walks and driveways.

 
Sunday morning came. Hot black coffee in an Apple Records mug over saved sections of Saturday’s papers, the old songs playing on the stereo. Outside, angled slices of the Tom Thompson evergreen trees were brown in the shadows. The snow appeared to be pale blue away from the sun's light. The stillness was immaculate, beautiful. I almost wanted to believe in God again, but it was too damn cold to believe in anything much more than boots, coats and gloves. And anyway, there was more shovelling to be done.

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