19 January 2016

On Winter

It has been one of the quietest winters I can remember. Not much in the way of snow and even the temperature has been mild. Not what I think of when you say Canadian Winter, but hey, no complaints from this guy.
My brother lives up north a ways and is amazed that people seem to forget we live in Canada and that in the winter, it snows. He laughs every time we get a little snow and social media explodes with all the exasperated posts about bad drivers, shovelling snow and bitter cold winds. He has a point. If you look around Facebook or Twitter, they are filled with the same posts everybody made last year. And the year before that and the year before that, forever and ever amen. What is it that causes us to lose our collective minds when the mercury dips down and the fluffy white stuff falls from the sky? And what makes us forget that it happens every damn year?
I work with the public and not a day goes by when someone doesn't mention the weather in some way. It's a safe subject and a very Canadian way of saying hello. What I have noticed over my 25 plus years in customer service is that the same people that bitch about the humidity in the summer, do the same for the cold in the winter. I am not sure what they were expecting. The weather is something that changes every ten minutes up here and you would think they were used to that by now.
I am a summertime guy myself. I love it all, from the warm sun and cool air of the May 24 weekend to the humid nights of late August and everything in between. I revel in the heat and spend as much time as I can outside in the Grotto.
This place is where I spend my summer. Beauty!
The winter on the other hand is not my friend. Cold, dark days that are too short. Lack of sunshine does a number on me and I struggle more each year to keep my spirits up while the snowy weather drags on. From the beginning of January until we start to see the first buds break ground in late March, I have to remind myself that summer is coming and I just need to hang in there a few more days.
Despite my struggles with the winter, there are things I love about it. Hockey is T.V. every night and my Leafs keep finding new ways to lose. There is almost nothing better than BBQ in the cold. It just seems to taste better when you know not everyone will brave the elements to have a wonderfully grilled steak and potato dinner. It helps that I have propane heat and a garage to hang out in while the 'Q does its thing, but the flavours seem to be brighter when it is out of season.
Nothing stops the Polkaroos from BBQing.
I also must admit to a bit of a dirty secret. I like shovelling. We have a rather long driveway for the suburbs and a double car garage behind our house. It is a lot of space, but I love when I get out my trusty 10 year old shovel and begin to clean up. There is something soothing about pushing the white stuff around to reveal the blacktop underneath. I never rush, no need for a wrenched back here. I love the feeling of my body heating up as the wind swirls around me. The steam when I take my hat off and accept a mug of Irish coffee when I take a break during a big clean up makes me smile. But most of all, I think I feel like I accomplished something. Small and not world changing, but by clearing the snow from our driveway, we somehow connect with the outside. I don't ski or snowboard. Being a fat guy and having a grasp of physics means that my weight on two sticks going down a hill would result in a funniest videos sort of ending and perhaps a cracked limb or two. But give me a shovel and I am just fine. Trying to work through the drifts that form as the wind pushes the snow around makes me move my body, and in Winter that is a big accomplishment.
Looking back at a job well done.
I would hazard a guess that this is what makes it so soothing for me. Struggling with anxiety and depression, especially at this time of the year, can leave me feeling lethargic and empty inside. Shovelling focuses my attention on an achievable physical task that also allows me time to work through some stuff that may be bugging me. I am not sure why, but as I work my way to the end of the driveway, I become more relaxed and let things that had been upsetting me all day just slip away.
We have talked about getting a snow blower many times and I always resist. I know it would make life easier for those 3 or 4 heavy snows that can take over an hour to clear and leave me a little sore the next day, but still I hold back. Some of that is the cost of purchasing and maintaining a quality machine. The other reason is far simpler, I am not ready to give up my big blue shovel.
Old Blue, she's held together with
Duct tape and love.
It still means something to me to look down at the back of the house and see a clean slate. Maybe we could all approach the snow with a little less hatred and embrace the seasons in the Canadian way, with a smile on our faces and a knowledge that spring is just around the corner.
 Well, not around the corner, but just down the street and kind of walking slow. I mean you think this season could pick up the pace a little. Come on spring, get your ass on in here.
It's okay, I know that when it comes, I will get out the garden stuff and begin the process of getting ready for the summer again.
I can't wait!
My favourite sign that summer is coming!

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