Yesterday I wrote about rain. So it seems only fitting, especially as winter is just around the corner, that today I write about snow. Usually the mere thought of snow makes me think, “Yuck”. But there are moments when even I can appreciate its beauty.
Like the first snowfall of the season. Before cars have driven through it, and left their tracks. Before people and dogs have walked through it, leaving theirs. When it’s still pristine. Untouched. Unmarked. Pure white.
Glistening in the sunlight, just as if what we were really looking at, were scoops and scoops
and scoops of merangue, sprinkled here and there with tiny bits of crystallized candy, that sparkle when the light catches them. A sight that’s even more magical at night, when the moonlight tints the snow, ever so lightly, with a blue haze. And the bits of candy look more like bits of diamonds.
When the bare branches of the trees look like they’ve been covered with dollops of whipped cream or marshmallow fondant. Spoonfuls, just dropped here and there, willy nilly. More on some branches than others. And when the needles on fir trees can barely be seen, they are so heavily laden with fluffy, white ‘stuff’. When icicles, that look like cut-glass ornaments, dangle precariously from window ledges and door frames and eves.
That’s when it’s beautiful.
But if you live in the city, like I do, you better rush right out to admire it when you can, because it won’t last long. By morning, there’ll already be slushy, grey, dirty-looking piles of heavy, wet snow by the side of the road. And the colder it gets, the harder those piles will become. Until they are covered in thick layers of ice. And every day, those piles will get bigger and bigger and bigger, narrowing the streets. Making it impossible to park. And equally impossible for people and small dogs to get to the sidewalks, on the other side.
That’s when it’s not so beautiful.
As a kid I loved when it snowed. I loved tobogganing. And ice skating. Oh, I really loved that. I even took figure skating lessons and begged my parents to let me join a skating club. Which we did. I loved making snow angels. Never was into making snowmen, though. Our house was right across the street from a public school, with an enormous schoolyard. In the winter that’s where the snow removal trucks used to dump all the snow. At the very far end of that yard. I’m from Montreal, where it snowed a hell of a lot, so by mid January those piles were more like small mountains. Big enough to toboggan down.
What I loved the most were the blizzards. When it would snow, non stop, for days. The city would come to a standstill. Businesses would close. Schools would close. Because the accumulation of snow could be as high two, three, even four feet. Sometimes it would be so bad, the stairs to our front door would be completely buried under snow. You couldn’t even tell where the stairs were. We’d have to go into the house through the garage.
My father would start out for his office and two hours later, having only managed to drive several blocks, he’d come back home. My mother, of course, would be shaking her head in frustration, because she’d told him to not to go in the first place. And there we’d stay, cocooned for days. One time, for some reason, we were at my aunt’s house when a blizzard hit. With friends of my parents who’d been visiting from New York. All of us ended up having to camp at my aunt’s. That was a total blast. All the kids slept in sleeping bags, in the den, because there was a fireplace in there. There were adults sleeping everywhere.
We listened to music. Danced. Played games. Read. Told stories. Ate virtually non-stop. It was fabulous, until the power went out. Not funny to have no heat in the middle of winter. That fireplace sure got a work out. We lived by candlelight. Luckily the outage only lasted about four or five hours. But it was a couple of days before we could go back to or own house.
Back then I also liked to ski. Briefly. We had gone to a hotel in the Laurentians for a Christmas break and I took some skiing lessons. And loved it. Once we were back home, I continued to ski (with rented equipment) for a while. When my parents felt sure that I really liked it, my father decided to buy me skis and boots. Ignoring the fact that I was still a rank beginner, he fell prey to a very skilled salesman (commissioned, obviously) who convinced him to get me metal skis, instead of wood.
There is no way I was ready for them. But unfortunately we didn’t know that. Until we went skiing one weekend with a friend of my parents and his daughter. On the tow, the man in front of me, fell down; and knocked me down. My foot was twisted under me, and because we were on a T-bar, I was being dragged up the mountain. I should have let go of the damn thing, but I was so taken aback by it, I just kept trying to get up. Which wasn’t happening.
Once at the top, I got help getting to my feet. My ankle was killing me but again, because I was young and stupid, I opted to ski down anyway. Bad decision. Bad, bad, bad. I couldn’t put any weight on that foot. There I was, with really fast skis that I wasn’t yet used to. Or really good enough to be on, in the first place. Virtually skiing on one leg.
So how do you think that went?
I couldn’t snow plow because I could only bear weight on one foot. Slaloming was totally out of the question. So, basically, I just went from the top of the mountain to the bottom in a straight line. Couldn’t stop, either. There was a rope at the bottom of the mountain that separated the base of the mountain, from the area where spectators stood. I went straight into that rope. At high speed. I remember very little. When I regained consciousness, I was laying flat on the ground, staring into a pair of the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.
Luckily, I wasn’t hurt. How I wasn’t hurt I don’t know. There was definitely a guardian angel on my shoulder that day. Didn’t need the angel again (at least not the ski angel) because the minute we got home, the skis were hung on their rack in the garage. Never to be used again. At least not by me. My skiing days were over.
And that was when I decided that winter, and snow, were not for me. I was far more compatible with sand.