The frigid coolness of Canadian weather sets in around November. When I was in elementary school, I became aware of the puddles on the playground freezing into a glass-like ice as a sign of winter’s arrival. It was only a matter of time before the ground would freeze and snow would fall. Canadian adults are not fond of snow. I hadn’t understood this until I became an adult myself. Snow is beautiful and deadly at the same time. It’s an inconvenience when you’re trying to get from point A to point B. At the same time, it’s breathtakingly beautiful at night when moonbeams refract light of the snow giving it a magical quality.
Games on the playground shifted once snow covered the playground equipment in a white blanket of fluffy snow. In kindergarten, teachers and assistants would help us zip-up our coats, wrap scarves around our faces in twisted knots constricting us into place. Snow pants would be shoved overtop of our pants and then tucked into large winter boots. Mittens, or gloves were essential pieces to the ensemble, but everyone had a habit of loosing them while playing on the frozen tundra. Once we were ready, we were herded like cattle outside into the frosty air by the mere grumble of the bell.
Suddenly, we were no longer children playing in the snow. We were survivors placed into a brutal climate in which we had to learn to survive. As quick as we could, my friends and I journeyed to the other side of the playground. It was not an easy task. The journey was a difficult one. When you are wearing so many layers of clothing, you end up looking like a walking marshmallow. Marshmallows don’t move very quickly, believe me.
Everyone took the superhighway of the frozen snowbanks to get to their destination. If we were to venture out into the fresh snow, the snow would swallow our short little bodies like quick sand. It would take forever to reach our fort, and time was of the essence. The reason we had to arrive in a hurry was because enemies lurked everywhere looking for forts to destroy or to claim for their own. It is not unlike that one bully at the beach who will knock down a sandcastle because he feels entitled to do so. Once we reached our fort, which consisted of a circular parameter of ice and snow packed around a foot high, the game would begin. Furniture would be made from packing snow and ice into rough shapes reminiscent of couches, tables, chairs, and beds. Then, we would play house, and sometimes we would be soldiers defending our fort from troublesome boys.
Our little enterprise lasted as long as the snow was present. Sometimes, the snow disappeared quickly (here one day and gone the next). Other times, there was too much snow and it had smothered our fort completely.
There was once a classmate who decided that making his own fort would be too much work. So, he enlisted workers to build him an empire from out of the snowbank. He would reward them with titles as a king would award his noblemen. Now that I think of it, it was really silly seeing so many of them trying to win his favour as he stood proudly at the top of the snowbank. Every recess, my classmates would build and build until the snowbank reached the same height as a one-storey home. But like all empires, his would crumble come spring as the snow melted away.
As I got older, snow became more of a fact of life. A measure of disconnection happened once I reached Middle School and I no longer played during lunch. Occasionally, I see snow as a form of nostalgia, though right now, snow is rather bothersome. A snowstorm can be the difference between spending Christmas with family, or being snowed-in without power on Christmas morning. A snowstorm could force me to absorb university lectures in a condensed form – which is very problematic. But then, snow is also beautiful and picturesque. There is a feeling which I believe has no name that I have when snow falls when I am at home without needing to go anywhere. It’s the sense of being enclosed by the snow while simultaneously appreciating the warmth of the woodstove.
When snow falls, the snow silences the world around me. As snowflakes float gracefully towards the ground, I can see streetlights illuminating certain snowflakes in an orange glow. Cars cease zooming past my street. They pause. They take their time as they move in a crawl. I watch snow pile up near the window until only a small circular patch is my only view of the outside.
I forget sometimes how my small corner of the world experiences something unique that many people will never experience. I take it for granted when people from warm climates want to see a snowflake dissolve on their tongue or feel the thrill of a sled as it rushes down a snow-covered hill. Right now as I write this, the snow has melted completely from a rainstorm. The rain has melted all traces of winter away for now. Everything is bare. The grass is dead. Trees nakedly blow in the wind as if they are shivering from the absence of their blanket of snow. The sun shines in a clear blue sky. But, snow will come again soon.