first snow

Winter is always coming when you live in the north, and it’s still a surprise. Every year, the first snow blankets the landscape and like magic, I forget what not winter looks like. The world is just white and frozen, and it feels as though it has always been so. Green and leaves are not even memories because that’s how deep winter penetrates.

I have ever mentioned that I hate winter? It wasn’t always so. As a child, I loved snow. Maybe it’s part of being born in a winter month or maybe it’s just that winter is so easy when you aren’t responsible for adulting while enduring it. Being an adult certainly killed the joy that was winter when I was young.

When I was ten, I raced outside every night after supper to play in the snow. Sledding until my corduroys were frozen stiff and my mittens were crusted with ice. It’s a wonder I never suffered from frostbite.

During the pandemic, I regained a bit of that winterish outdoor joy. I walked in the snow every day. Properly bundled, of course. Perhaps it was the lack of worldly obligations that made it more delightful? Like when I was a kid? I was not compelled to be anyone. Risk anything on icy roads. It was snow day after snow day.

Now that the powers that be have declared the pandemic over (though the evidence suggests that is more than just wishful thinking) there is pressure to risk when we should stay put.

My elderly self is not as winter hardy (or foolish) as my ten year old self. A fall would likely break something. Thinner skin less likely to weather a bout with frostbite.

I need a place to winter now where winter isn’t a hazard, but I am afraid snow-birding is not a thing in this “post” pandemic world for those of us who don’t think as magically as others.

The snow was falling even before we went to bed last night. Not flurries either but the wet, heavy flakes that fall straight down like missiles, sticking to the cold surfaces and piling up like cord wood. From a distance they look like tiny snowballs and up close they clump on face, getting stuck in your eyelashes and bangs before melting into tiny slush pools that dribble slowly down you face and off your chin like drool.

Although it was much colder this morning, the snow clung to most surfaces save the roads. They are still a bit too warm and with the help of the sun, shook off the white stuff this time. Next time will likely be a different matter. Snow in early November is something I can’t recall in the last several years. The last really snowy winter I remember was 1998 when Will and I were first living together. It seemed as though it did nothing but snow that winter. I think we had nearly a week’s worth of school to make up that following June because of the snow days. Here, according to Rob, the snow fell and stayed, foot after foot of it, just before Halloween. I don’t recall snow on Halloween ever but I remember plenty of snowy Novembers growing up and even through my young adulthood. Weather patterns have changed a lot though because of the global warming in the last decade and a bit more. In Iowa winter snows fall around and more often after Christmas and in the southern part of the state significant and lasting snowfall is over by late February or very early March. By late April the warm weather returns and it can be very warm and humid by mid-May and stay that way through to mid-October. Here the snow falls and stays until May.

Everyone is concerned about how I will handle a Canadian winter, but I only just put my long johns on today whereas Rob has been wearing his for weeks already. It’s just snow and cold. The sun being perpetually on the horizon, not that we have fallen back to standard time, is more bothersome. On the way into town today, Rob has me try to picture what it will be like with feets high snow banks on either side of the road and weather so cold that the car exhaust builds up into a fog at the intersections from the waiting vehicles. Not hard to picture the latter at all as I have been paying attention to the smokestacks at the plants around here and the smoky pollution that comes out. It’s thicker and moves languidly up and across the sky. Manufactured clouds of steely gray snaking away for what seems like miles. Rob isn’t far off when he asserts that the cold is visible up here. I used to try and picture the Fort and the road to Josephburg before we moved up from his descriptions. I tried to visualize the layout of the yard and the house. He had shown me how to get to the aerial shot on Goggle Earth once and that helped a bit, but it wasn’t until I got here that it all made sense. Of course, even in the beginning, nothing seemed concrete in the same way life in Des Moines did. Now the Fort is my mailing address and Josephburg is where I live, and this house, is our home in a way that the old place on 53rd Place never was.

Winter has arrived. And so have I.