500-Odd Words About Snow

In an apparent celestial thumbing of the nose to the notion of global warming, the heaviest early-season snowfall in recent memory blanketed the Maritime Provinces last night and all throughout today. I haven’t had the radio or TV on to get the official stats, but I shoveled close to a foot of the white stuff off my front steps earlier today, and once again they are covered to a depth of several inches. My car, parked in the driveway, was unidentifiable as a Honda Civic unless one was enough of an automotive geek to recognize the top 2/3 of the factory-issue alloy wheels.

Conveniently (as opposed to presciently) I had stacked my newly-received load of firewood in the garage earlier in the day, paying no attention to the gathering clouds. In the days before electronic communications, farmers and other such country dwellers knew instinctively when adverse weather was about to descend upon them, or so it is said; apparently that intuition was systematically bred out of my gene pool sometime prior to my arrival, as I had no idea whatsoever until I opened the front door and was greeted with a Currier and Ives calendar scene, minus the red horse-drawn sleigh full of happy townsfolk.

When I first moved up here, I had an all-wheel-drive SUV, but after one winter I realized that my frail LA-acclimated constitution required a good deal more cozy warmth than Canada typically offers up in the wintertime, so when it came time to replace that car, I didn’t bother getting another winter-capable vehicle (instead, I opted to park the vehicle and light out for warmer climes at the first signs of frost). That said, the Civic acquitted itself quite well, both in my unplowed driveway, and on the somewhat slippery country roads around my house. And I don’t even have snow tires on it, just the euphemistically named “All Season” tires, designed for year-round use in the harsh climate of, say, Phoenix.

The house is staying toasty, thanks to my parents’ attention to insulation when building the place, to the double-pane windows, and to the new-this-year wood stove, which can be adjusted from “placid subtropical” to full-on “Helsinki sauna” with the flick of a lever. I have opted for the lowest setting, which seems to be getting the job done, and which bodes well for the capacity of the stove if the temperatures should spiral downward before I leave.

One of my favorite things about a fresh snowfall is that it provides a crisp white backdrop for the woodland creatures whose coats so often blend in with their surroundings. Today I have seen several chipmunks, a few squirrels and a totally fearless red fox, none of which stuck around long enough for me to snap pictures, but all of which imprinted upon my Prince Edward Island winter mindscape.

I leave for Japan in a little over a week; once there I can doff my sweatshirt and parka and revert to my typical autumn upper-body attire of T-shirt and (perhaps) fleece vest. A few days ago it was close to 70 degrees in Tokyo; at that rate it will likely be a while before the first snowfall. Last year there was no snow at all in the city, and I had to go to the mountains near Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, to get a brief dose of the powdery stuff. It’s a bunch more fun when you are not the one responsible for shoveling it.

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