snowy night 2

The darkness is inky and suffocating.

Street lights are almost non-existent, a few stars shoehorn their way through the heavy cloud cover overhead and the moon hasn’t risen yet.

In November it was delightful and peaceful to see my breath in wispy frosted clouds and hear the soft swish of fresh snow beneath my boots. Fluffy, romantic snowflakes materialized magically out of the darkness, inviting me to open my mouth wide and feel the first cold flake on my tongue.

But now it’s early March and the lustre of the fresh chill has long gone; all that awaits now is anticipation, the teasing anticipation of longer days of daylight and the waitful suspense in tulip and daffodil bulbs forcing themselves through the half-frozen soil with spring’s promise.

The shouts of my pals Hugh and Jerome and Larry M. as we play street hockey are a great distraction to the seemingly endless snowdrifts and scarfs over my frozen cheeks.

But who am I kidding?

Those are my memories from living in southern Ontario and Yellowknife, NWT and BC’s William’s Lake where winter storms and frigid temperatures defy global warming now and show up as unruly revellers for the party, maybe just a bit less frequently than in years past.

Today I live in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley where winter usually graces the surrounding mountains, only rarely showing its true face in the valley bottom where most of my neighbours wonder if putting snow tires on their car, despite provincial laws commanding it, is really necessary.

I’ve flown in for my brother’s son’s wedding in southern Ontario this week. – a joyful family event that involves no caskets or urns or “Rock of Ages” hymns thank goodness.

It’s a nice change to put on a suit and tie with a lightness inside and stuffing kleenexes in my jacket pocket not to catch tears of sadness, but only those of gladness.

But winter, the icy, blizzardy winter that I had forgotten existed is still playing itself out in full force here in the populated heartland of the country.

Snowbanks are piled up to my waist all through the residential streets, fleece-lined parkas and down-filled jackets are zipped up to the chin and long lines of vehicles fill the highway air with great wispy clouds of vapour trails like jets passing high overhead.

I laugh inwardly when I ponder and reflect on how my ancestors who forged lives – difficult, harsh lives – in this frigid winter climate, would look at us today.

In great migratory hordes, we pack our bikinis and speedos into rolling closets and cram into airplanes every week by the thousands to join the birds who left in the late fall to fly south for soothing sunshine and balmy temperatures.

We fill white sandy beaches to overflowing with outsized beer bellies and screaming red-skinned shoulders for a respite, a week or two where we can forget our icy homeland.

Just 20, or 75, or 150 years ago, the great majority of us had grandparents or great-grandparents who crowded onto ships and trains looking to escape the challenges of their own homelands – famine, war, persecution, earthquakes, rape, floods – all manner of threats to life.

Harsh, inhospitable, often horrific lives were made livable and hopeful again when they landed on our shores. My own Irish ancestors left on big sailing ships from a land that refused to feed them or allow them to own land and prosper by the toil of their ingenuity and labours.

And here I am today, occasionally bitching about the cold weather outdoors. Woe is me. Oh puhleeeeease…. whine with that cheese anyone?!!!

No one else will, so I pinch and remind myself.

I remind myself of how fortunate I happen to be, living in a 21st century world where colourful, flavourful food from every corner of the world is at my fingertips …

… I awake in a home that comes to a cozy, comfortable temperature at the flick of a switch on the wall …

…. War is something I pay money to see in a theatre, a bag of hot buttered popcorn in my hand …

… Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods? I only visit these on the 10 o’clock TV news …

… Sure, ravaging viral and bacterial plagues are worrisome but tiny in number to those of even a hundred years ago.

It’s so important that I remember that I’m living a king’s life only because countless other of my relatives – and yours – struggled and survived and used ingenuity and intelligence and perseverence.

So when I sit next to my siblings and nieces and nephews, smiling proud, watching my nephew recite his vows of love, honour and betrothal to his lovely bride, I’ll open my eyes and take a moment to look outside at the late winter snows and frigid winds.

And instead of grimacing and lamenting how nasty and cruel the forces of nature are, I’ll take a deep breath in … Namaste!! – and appreciate the incredible dream of a world I’ve inherited.

It’s through the trials and labours of my grandparents, great-grandparents and their grandparents, that I’m typing a blog post on a computer that wirelessly connects me to anyone in the world in an amazingly comfortable, warm chair in a hotel room …. while just 5 feet away through a wall … a late winter freeze blasts away and I’m practically oblivious.

Why would I buy a lottery ticket? I’ve already won the jackpot!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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