Tuesday, 24 November 2015

First Snow

There was a rime of snow on the ground this morning. Brio went charging out into it and scampered and ran in circles. Maple tiptoed out looking miffed and hurried back in, taking the steps in a great leap. The garden is only half covered in mulch---somehow I didn't have enough maple leaves this year, don't know why, unless the wind took them to other yards---but the snow covers the bare spots now. The ground is not yet iron, and I toy with planting just a little more garlic while I can. Before winter takes away the option. Before darkness is so thick at the end of the work day that I can't find my way out to the gate.

Snow always brings with it the thought of fireplaces and woolly Nordic sweaters and hot chocolate. When I was a teenager I babysat for a ski instructor's family and I'd stay in the lodge and play with the baby while everyone else went skiing. They paid me in ski lift passes, which I never once used. I grew up in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains and I've never been skiing. But from the room's window I enjoyed watching the tiny figures on the slopes tumble and slide down the white mountain, and one evening I got to go downstairs with the family to hear Peter Yarrow sing. He was a family friend, and when they introduced me to him he called me a little muffin. I didn't realize who he was until later, when I went home and looked him up. I met Mary too (also from Peter, Paul, and Mary) and got to sit in on a guitar jam session with her---and again I didn't realize who she was until much later. She just seemed like a nice, cheerful blonde lady. And Peter reminded me just a little of Groucho Marx.

There used to be a great sledding hill where Timpview High School stands now. I remember clinging to my dad's back as he sped along on the wooden sled with its metal runners (try to find one of those sleds now). I was never fond of going downhill fast, but he and my older brother and sister would always go back for another run. I would flail along in deep snow, with my socks bunching up in the toe of my boots and the rim of the boot rubbing my bare skin raw, little balls of snow sticking to my knitted mittens. But at the end of the endurance test there was Mom's hot chocolate to go home to, creamy swirls curling away from my spoon.

Snow hasn't been as kind as I've gotten older. The memories tend away from play. Slush in the street as I trudge to the bus. A white shield crusty with ice I break through with my boots while my dog pads along without leaving a paw print. Something to scrape off my car. Once it was so cold that when I went to scrape the car window, the glass exploded into miniscule fragments at the first touch. I've seen the streets so filled with compacted snow that people cross-country skied in downtown Toronto. Once I saw a man ice-skating to work down the middle of the road, carrying his briefcase. When conditions are that bad, you really should be home in front of the fire.

It isn't deep winter yet, by any means, but my bones can feel it coming.

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