“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle
“Advice is like the snow. The softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.” – John Burroughs
“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.” – Gary Zukhav
In years past for more than a decade, my husband and I departed for warmer climes for three to six weeks to escape during the bleak midwinter weather of Alberta. However, age does have a way of taking its toll and effecting unplanned changes, and the upcoming winter season will be the third since we have left the bitter cold behind. I wonder if there could be a more indulgent feeling than shedding heavy winter wear before boarding an airplane to arrive at your destination with a forty to sixty degree increase in the temperature, and then disembarking dressed in light summer apparel into the warmth of brilliant sunshine. The mere action of stepping outdoors every morning affirms that one has arrived in paradise.
Still, the splendour and the purity to be discovered during our Canadian winters are enchanting. Who among us, whatever our age, has not rushed to peer out the window on the morning of the first snowfall to marvel at the glistening soft white quilt gently resting everywhere, covering the barren branches of the deciduous trees, interspersed with the green of the conifers. The quiet of the pristine scene fills my soul with peace, and I reflect upon my beloved grandfather’s beliefs about winter, “Its arrival every year was as though God was purifying the countryside and giving humanity another chance for redemption to seek the eternal light of his Son. It was a time of beauty…a time for silence.” – Gustav Warner, paying homage to “God’s season” in Choosing: 1940-1989, the third book of my Understanding Ursula trilogy.
Often, however when in the depths of my woes about the ice and snow, and especially if I am challenged in partaking of my hikes into the woods, I have been known to lament regarding our inclement wintry weather. That is, until I begin to recall growing up on the Manitoba prairie from the beginning of the 1950’s to the late sixties, although I will say that I have no recollection of any storm nearly as severe as the one which pummelled Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg in early October of this year. Our farmhouse had electricity, and during power outages, we could still depend upon generating light with the erstwhile kerosene lantern, and cook on the wood stove. Our central heating was reliant upon a small coal furnace housed in the basement with a dirt floor, I was the ‘running water’ since one of my chores was to carry water from a distant outside well, summer and winter, and our sewage system was the proverbial outhouse.
My upbringing was still decidedly easier than the hardships experienced by our pioneers who, I suspect could never have imagined the advancements humankind has undergone in pursuit of comfort and facility of lifestyle. Our options today are unlimited – with ease we can fly away to sunny destinations, our cars come with heated seats, and can be started remotely, our homes are warmly insulated against the elements, and perhaps most importantly of all, there is a plethora of activities and gadgets to entertain us through the long cold months of winter. Nonetheless, I believe that for all that has changed over the years, for all of our progress, the heart of winter will always be our celebration of the most wonderful birthday of all.