Forged in snow and ice

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If there is one thing that binds us together as Canadians, it’s the dread of winter and January is, in this respect, the cruelest month. Hardly anyone loves the most frigid drops of prairie weather, and I often marvel to think how people from warm, tropical climates have managed to adjust to the weather, how people like my parents – who hail from muggy Southern India – have lived with the prairies’ brutal winters for three decades. It’s certainly the reason so many people are eager to head away during the season to warmer climes, and the thing we most dread about coming home.

When we came home from our Christmas spent in temperate 10 degree weather, tromping around the beaches and green hills of Wales, people greeted us and our arrival back in Edmonton’s -25 degree with, “Welcome back to the freezer!”

It seems downright amusing that people in England and Wales consider their weather a “winter.” Other than the leaves being off the trees and the occasional frost, it hardly seemed to constitute as such, but I suppose these things are all relative.

“I used to go swimming but you don’t feel so much like going in the winter, because it’s colder,” said one family member, while we were there.

I gawked at her – after all, we go swimming in -20 degrees – and then, as she realized who she was talking to, she laughed.

We knew what we were coming home to, and as we boarded our flight to Edmonton, our fellow travellers also talked about bracing themselves for the change from European winter to a Canadian one.

As we arrived though, I found more things to appreciate than complain about – yes it was cold, but we were greeted with friendly faces at the airport, who brought us sandwiches and snacks, and even better, our heated van. When we pulled up at our house, we were greeted with the happy surprise of a cleared driveway, thanks to some awesome neighbours. As one doctor told me on her arrival to St. Paul and Canada, the weather might not be warm, but the people are, evinced in the spirit of helping each other out when we get stuck in snow drifts, or helping with the Snow Angels program with neighbours clearing driveways of those who would struggle to do it themselves.

With the innocence of a child, my son looked out our frosty window and said, “Yay, look at all the snow! I’m glad it’s still here!”

While I can’t muster quite the enthusiasm he did, I do appreciate the enduring nature of Canadians through the winter. It can be brutal and punishing, but the winter has forged our identity in snow and ice. It tests us to be new and innovative, to find ways to adapt and thrive, to develop a rich emotional life and tighter bonds with family and friends. It challenges us to find ways to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s the sleek poetry of skiing, building backyard skating rinks, or blowing frozen bubbles.

But for me, the most amazing thing about the winter is the anticipation of its end. I re-read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to my children over Christmas, and once again felt that familiar delicious shiver at the description of the end of the evil Snow Queen’s reign, with snow and ice melting and the sounds of running water and streams being heard after a hundred years of winter. Without enduring the cold and ice, one can’t fully appreciate the absolute joy that comes from spring. And while we’re a few months from being at that point, until then, we can enjoy the anticipation.

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