This morning I awoke to the first snowfall of the winter season here in the Okanagan Valley… Car windows coated with a duvet blanket of white cotton… Pine and spruce tree boughs lightly sugar-dusted like shortbread cookies at Christmas…

Snow is dreadful, frightening.

Snow is exhilarating, cheerful.

Canada and snow are inseparable like Gretzky and hockey… Favre and the Green Bay Packers… coffee and Tim Hortons (or Starbucks)… Messi and FC Barcelona… U.S.A. and apple pie…  you get the picture.

Falling snow can be like the gently bobbing sea: warm, inviting, a comfortable friend… but like a revolutionary turncoat it can swing vicious, all gnarly and nasty and powerfully scary, a demon in downy disguise.

I’ve seen human corpses frozen blue-toned stiff and lifeless in snowbanks in Yellowknife, sad remnants of alcohol-induced sleep on a -40C night under the emerald dancing blaze of the Northern Lights.

I’ve inched my old Rambler American cautiously towards a January intersection in Hamilton, Ontario, lightly tapped my brakes to obey a red light, and unheeding she kept on rambling, rambling, sliding, right into the middle of the skating rink crossroads … luckily no other cars decided to tango … or tangle with me on the slush-laden icy street.

I’ve motored along through whiteout blizzard conditions on midnight highways near Brandon, Manitoba and 100 Mile House, B.C.  Unable to see 10 feet in front of my headlights, I hoped, I prayed like hell in my very best heathen form that no other car or 18-wheeler truck would suddenly materialize out of the ether – the snowy fog – where I’d have no chance of stopping outside of plowing into their personal space, a twisted mess of metal and bone and blood.

I’ve tumbled ass-over-teakettle unexpectedly to the hard ground, and watched (while snickering guiltily) others nose-dive dangerously from the slickness of snow-ice underfoot.

Yes, snow can be dangerously terrible.


But I’ve also felt an icy chill on my cheeks and heard the wush-wush glide of my cross-country skis on hard-packed trails under glorious sunny skies, vistas of snow-laden conifers lining my way, grey whiskey jacks laughing and squawking down at me from their branches.

I’ve sipped steamy hot chocolate around a bonfire as Charlie Brown fluffy snowflakes flittered and danced in the mandarin-orange glow of firelight.

I’ve taken a bow saw to the trunk of a bushy, snow-covered Scotch Pine tree in the frosty wilderness to drag it back as a celebratory Christmas tree in William’s Lake, B.C.

I’ve watched in serene fascination at the feathered airforce: dark-eyed juncos and quail and pine siskins – an occasional hungry hawk – winging and dipping and chirping in my yard as they devour as many seeds as they can to fill their high energy needs for a cold cold day.

I’ve sat in the evening darkness listening to one of my favourite guitarists Bruce Cockburn play his melancholy song of snow and winter chill and missing a lover on “The Coldest Night of the Year“.

I’ve savoured the child-like delight of listening to a caffeine-hyped CKOC radio announcer utter my two very favourite words as a 10 year-old…”SNOW DAY!“… no school.

Yes, snow can be invigoratingly wonderful.

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Part of that wonder and pleasure is snow music.

Bundled warmly in parka and mukluks you can eavesdrop – silvery breathe fogging the still air – on the crunchy sound of intensely cold snow beneath your toasty feet.

Snow walking is snow music with a steady rhythmic beat. Swoosh-crunch-swoosh-crunch… the metronome ticks time to your motion… Swoosh-crunch-swoosh-crunch…

Have you ever noticed how Charlie Brown’s (Vince Guaraldi actually!) music “Christmastime Is Here” has an insistent incessant snow-drifting brushes-drumbeat at its base. That’s snow music.

I don’t hear snow music often anymore. I don’t immerse myself in snow the way I once did. I miss it sometimes even though I’m growing more cold and snow-phobic than ever. That’s the curse of aging. I think Leonard Cohen sang about such things.

By Canadian standards I live in a tropical enclave – Canuck Hawaii – where the pain of Arctic chilblains lasts only a few weeks before mild springlike breezes and green grass and daffodils materialize once more.

My kids never had the delight of experiencing a snow day here in mild’ish B.C. I feel sorry for what they’ve missed.

Ice and snow continue on for months in places like Edmonton and Saskatoon and Hamilton and Halifax. Children in those and many other chilly cities are able to wake up, stretch little kiddie limbs, then smoosh their noses against their windows and smile excitedly.

Smile because a thick blanket of fun white stuff has smothered their yards and streets overnight.

Smile because they can put on their coats and boots and scarves and toques and mittens and instead of sitting at their school desk, they can slide down hills and build snowmen and throw snowballs.

Smile because it’s a SNOW DAY!

And they can also smile because they can turn off their iPods and iPhones… and listen in to the brisk seasonal tunes of SNOW MUSIC.

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