Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Wondering

I love winter. I have to, I'm Canadian! But I loved it more when I was a carefree child. The worries of getting around on ice-covered streets, being stuck in massive traffic jams and meeting deadlines were eons away. The only thing on my youthful agenda was exploration and discovery!

I loved the feeling of soaring over our ice-covered pond or whirling into a spin like Toller Cranston. Even though the pond had tufts of grass that would send me flying, it was better than our indoor rink. When it snowed I would lift my head to the heavens feeling the frozen flakes tingle as they melted on my face. Then I'd catch them on my tongue, cooling my steaming breath.

I loved to live dangerously. And my brother helped me out by creating a unique sled renowned in our neighbourhood. He had taken a ratty recliner seat and nailed it to some old skiis. He added some ropes for navigation and created a masterpiece that couldn't be missed. Man did that thing fly! Everyone wanted a chance to drive it but it was a bear to steer. I remember narrowly missing a tree while barrelling down the high slopes of the junior high near our house.

A new snowfall would bring heightened anticipation. Standing with my back towards virgin snow, I never felt fear as I fell backward, waving my arms and legs. Then, very carefully, I would get up so the angel would be perfect. I would back away slowly, covering my tracks, creating a miracle.

One day when I was in Grade 7, we had so much snow our teachers encouraged us to build the biggest forts we could. It was the guys against the girls, the forts towering above our heads. Our teachers joined in the battle at lunch and it became WWIII. There were snipers, spys and guys without fear who ran right into our hard-packed, bullet snowballs. Almost all of us had to go home to get out of our soaked clothes. Ski pants hadn't been invented yet...

Neither had ATM's, 24-hour shopping, online stores or video games. Heck, my parents had recently bought our first black and white TV. How could I even imagine that in the decades to come almost every school child would have their own lap tops or iPhone or whatever it will be in a few years time?

And no, I didn't have to walk 20 miles to school in a blizzard, uphill both ways - but my parents did!

It's almost impossible to get back the simplicity of those winters - Christmases where we made each other gifts. Where the highlight was spending time with our extended family, listening to their embellished stories and laughing until the turkey we just ate threatened to come back up.

I find it takes an enormous effort to bring back simplicity. What traditions do you have that echo the simplicity of winters and Christmases in your life?


  1. I loved the paragraph about building forts, that's one thing that Calgary winters are missing.The ability to have a good fort war.

    When we lived in Ontario the snow would pile up a good 9-10 feet once we cleared the driveway, and us neighborhood kids would build series of tunnels and caves insides the mounds and have boys vs. girls snowball fights.
    We also had a small forest and little pond behind our house and many evenings after school were spent back there playing in the forts, and falling on the ice.

  2. I think we lose our enjoyment of winter and Christmas because we grow old when we grow up and we lose the element of wonder. I'm trying to recapture that wonder. This morning during my walk downtown I noticed that the snow was sparkling under the street lights. (Some ice crystals must have formed during the night.) Usually I don't notice that... usually I don't have - or take the time to notice. But this morning I did. I think as adults we're so busy worrying and fussing (like you mention at the beginning of your blog) and we forget to just notice and enjoy.
    Same goes for Christmas. Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store and they had some pine wreaths for sale outside the store. They smelled so good!!! I stopped for a minute and just inhaled!! In fact, I might even go back and buy one - just for the smell!! :) The (old) adult in me says it's just a waste of money... the child in me says the glorious smell is worth it.

  3. Being able to create tunnels and caves in the snow is something I envy, Courtney. In the Fraser Valley we would get big dumps of snow but they didn't last long. Our forts quickly melted like sandcastles eroding with the incoming tide.

    Joy - Listen to the child in you! Buy that pine wreath just for the glorious smell. Don't let that stodgy adult in you talk you out of it. You have made it so appealing, I may even buy one!

  4. When I was little we did the same thing in the ditches at school or home - building long networks of tunnels that we would crawl through and play games in. Now I don't crawl around in tunnels (unfortunately) but I still love the smell of winter's air and the way the snow shimmers.