Saturday, 8 November 2014



A Snow Day


There’s never really a first snowfall in Alberta because it can come at any time. I wouldn’t lay a snow bet on July or August although it could happen. What started falling through the night and continues to fall through this afternoon is here to stay. Clearing the walkways and the driveway isn’t about getting rid of it now; we’ve begun the winter toil of merely heaving it from one place to another, laying the foundations for January snow banks and windrows.


November is like a jail sentence, 30 days of mounting melancholy, the nadir of another year. We’ve turned back the clocks. The days will become increasingly shorter and that much colder. There is the blue and guiltily grateful pause of Remembrance Day. A minute of silent reflection seems a small price to pay for decades of freedom and our boundless opportunities to abuse it, or totally botch it from time to time. Democracy and capitalism, though often greased, are not always smooth processes.


I come in from the cold. Nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees are swirling and flitting about the feeders hanging from the limbs of the Ohio buckeye. The snow shovel is leaning up against the side of the house, its plastic edge is beginning to curl and peel: maybe one more winter’s scraping is left in it. There’s still coffee in the pot in the kitchen. I can smell the warm toaster. The Saturday New York Times crossword is partially completed. The Dixie Chicks are playing on CKUA, Alberta’s public radio station ( Their version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ is sublime. If I still recorded mix tapes I’d follow it with ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis, soft regrets being ploughed under. My blue Canadiens cap and grey fleece are white with snow.


Ann says, ‘You’re soaking. You should shake them off.’ So I do. Ann says, ‘I didn’t mean in the kitchen. I meant outside.’ She goes outside on the front porch to smoke a cigarette. I know Ann’s still smarting from having her butt kicked like a soccer ball all around the Scrabble board last night. I tear a couple sheets of paper towels from the roll and get down on my hands and knees and wipe the floor tiles to a clean shine.

Joining Ann outside I tell her, ‘I did that on purpose. Two birds. One stone. You know.’ Her smile says, Sure you did. Ann is right of course: heading into my 55th Canadian winter I should know better. But winter is six months, a long season, and I’m traditionally slow out of the gate. It always takes some getting used to, even after all these years.

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