Snow Canada

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ny_snow.jpgSome American friends of mine have been complaining about the weather recently. Apparently it’s been pretty cold outside their centrally heated apartments—the worst February in fact since 1989, officially, and no doubt the trip from the front-door to the car has been particularly hairy.

Forgive me my sarcasm though, for I really have no right to be self-rightious here in mild all year round New Zealand, where winter is summer only with more rain, and some wear shorts 365 days, and while roofs may occasionally fly through the air, snow is something we go to mountains to ski upon, but otherwise never see.

Still, I can not help wondering what Canadians are saying about (a-boot) the weather at the moment. I realise they pride themselves on being polite, and stoic, and would probably freeze to death before making a nuisance of themselves, but if there is one thing certain in life it is that if it is cold in the United States, it is really cold in Canada. With cold being something of an understatement…

As one who spent only a single winter in Canada, but a very memorable one, I can recall the following…

  • Getting to stay home from school when the wind chill factor reached -60, but never before then
  • Being thrown outside by the teachers every lunchtime, who would then lock the doors for a full hour so we had to stay there. We only got to be inside if the weather approached the conditions of the previous point (blizzards, ice storms), and we had somehow still made it to school that day in spite of. I think the teachers must have drawn straws each day to decide who was going to police the outdoor playground—whoever was“on patrol” never looked terribly happy about it, and although snow fights were banned, they were pretty easy to engage in due to the general absence of adult supervision
  • The wind whistling through my clothes as though I wasn’t wearing any
  • Snow drifts reguarly as high as cars, and the locals saying “Oh, eh, this is nothing eh, last year the army had to dig us out eh, when the snow drifts reached the top of the lamp-posts eh… Eh!”
  • Going ice-skating on“fields,” not just lakes, when in“Spring” the snow began to melt a little and then refreeze as ice. That was actually rather fun.
  • Not being able to stay indoors and watch good television, because you lived so far away from anywhere you only got the CBC. This was probably a good thing now that I think about it…

Which is why I suspect America’s long-suffering northern neighbours, probably in the grip of something 20 or 30 degrees colder than anything currently falling from the sky south of the border, aren’t quite so sympathetic…

  1. Mar 12, 2007 1:38 am

    I enjoyed your blog, especially your writing! Good job.
    Regarding Canadian winter:
    I suppose it is an ‘absurd’ lifestyle, as you so tagged it. Just for fun, here is link to my post Snow Slush And Falling Trees which references both said ‘absurd life’ conditions such as snow and the CBC.
    As a further note referring to – Snow drifts reguarly as high as cars, and the locals saying“Oh, eh, this is nothing eh, last year the army had to dig us out eh, when the snow drifts reached the top of the lamp-posts eh… Eh!” it sounds like you spent some time in Toronto a few (quite a few now) years ago when we had the car salesman Mel Lastman as our mayor. I”m still embarrassed by that man. Our newest mayor, David Miller, cares about parks and art and good dentistry. He is oh so very politically correct. Very Canadian.

  2. Mar 12, 2007 9:10 am

    Thanks for the comment Camille.

    I should point out, as one with a significant portion of Canadian ancestry (half in fact), that the“absurd” tag was a cheap shot aimed at my American cousins. Long-suffering Canadians have every right to complain about their harsher than harsh winters, not that they ever would.

    I actually spent my time mostly in PEI of all places, although as an eleven year old with a severe case of country farm-house fever, would have dearly loved to have instead been in Toronto, or Ottawa, or Vancouver—anywhere else actually, but particularly those cities, which are my favourites in equal order. Even Halifax seemed pretty“bustling” compared to sleepy old PEI, although I suspect I would appreciate the sleepiness a little more these days.

    As for the reference to“eh,” just a cheap Canadian joke really. For the life of me I can’t recall ever noticing anyone saying it when I was in Canada (in the 80s), which probably means I too had“drunk the maple syrup,” and was saying“eh” with the best of them…

  3. Mar 12, 2007 10:01 am

    Incidentally, I am wondering if anyone actually got the intentional pun in the name of this post? Perhaps it requires a time in a Canadian school, standing to attention every morning, doing ones best to mumble along…

  4. Mar 12, 2007 1:45 pm

    Ha ha ha… I didn’t get it at first, but now that you mention it….Of Course I Get It. Maybe you should have spelled the title “Snoh Canada” But then that might be out of character for you. 🙂

  5. Mar 12, 2007 1:59 pm

    Oh… by the way, personally I abhor Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver, in that order. The reason? The one thing Canadians do is snub each other if they are from competing large cities. Vancouver’ites’ hate everything ‘eastern Canada’, but it’s limited to as far east as Toronto, but not west of Toronto, if you get me. Ottawa’ites’ are the best skaters, cross country skiers, kayakers, hang gliders, campers, hikers, ice sculpture builders, nature photographers, canoists, hang gliders, bungee jumpers, snowboarders, and marshmallow roasters. If you don’t fall into that category, then you must be from that bigsmellyconcrete placecalledToronto. “Oh, you’re from Toronto” as if they didn’t already guess that because I don’t wear Columbia ski jackets and hiking boots 24/7. And folks from Montreal in general hate anyone who’s not French. Personally, I have tried to enjoy these cities, I’ve been to these cities, but everyone has an attitude towards Toronto. I shouldn’t say that I’m from Toronto. My experiences would probably be more pleasant! Just so you know! 😀

  6. Mar 12, 2007 2:49 pm

    If everyone else has an attitude towards Toronto, in my experience that probably makes it the best city! Hatred is probably their thin veneer for envy and insecurity.

    I did go to Montreal, and while it is very beautiful was able to pick up—even at age 11—a decided hostility towards the non-French, which included myself. It wasn’t even subtle—shopkeepers refused to serve my (Kiwi) mother when she spoke in English, and she knew enough French to know what they were saying about her.

    Ottawa I like firstly because my family is from there, and secondly because it is similar to my home-town in NZ—Wellington—a political, artistic and cultural capital, if not an economic one. Or at least that was my initial impression of the place.

    Toronto I have only passed through, but I prefer cities the bigger the better, so am an easy convert to its charms.

  7. Mar 12, 2007 3:15 pm

    Toronto is a great place. At least I think so. I used to think Montreal and Vancouver were great places too, until I got repeatedly snubbed. But enough about that. Ottawa is just too squeaky clean for me. I prefer a bit of grunge in the atmosphere. I think it builds character. I like to think of myself as a weed growing through the cracks in a wasteland. It’s sort of a subconscious belief in belonging to humanity in all it’s forms, including the most vile ones, yet nature prevails! To me it’s like the power of love. Stronger than hate, or war or cruelty could ever be. That’s me – The Love Weed. LOL

    I’ve heard great things about New Zealand. I wish to go there some day. I wish to travel the world too. I am visualizing….[ohm] I’m sure I’ll find a way somehow. 🙂

    If you want to see some great photos of Toronto or just get some cool info check out blogTO

  8. Mar 12, 2007 3:55 pm

    Yes, New Zealand is great. Very small though, and far away from everything, but in terms of culture and people remarkably close to Canada, which international travelers other than myself often note; friendly and open, but minus the snow and funny accent 😆

    I like your sentiments Camille, although I would reorder them slightly in application to my own (not at all precious I hope) world view. Yes, I find it hard to separate the good and the bad in this world, to split things into absolutes and to say that some thing or some one is past redemption—but I personally try to see the good in the bad, the beauty in the decidedly ugly—and I said try—while recognising that ugliness and evil on their own terms are better avoided than appraised.

    That being said, I am more than happy to contradict my just spun philosophy, for in the spirit of Walt Whitman, one of my favourite poets:

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    Personally I prefer vastness and oneness over truth, and am happy to be occasionally or more often wrong to advance their twin cause. And oneness is nothing other than love, as someone far wiser than myself probably once said.

    And on the topic of poets, and New Zealand still, might I recommend another of my favourites, New Zealand’s very own James K. Baxter, whom I wrote about recently here: New Zealand‘s greatest poet.

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