The Wet Coast
Growing up in Vancouver, a classic, snowy, winter wonderland was hard to find. It does snow occasionally, but rarely stays white for very long because inevitably the rain turns it all to dull, grey slush, which I think is the least fun, most miserable winter weather. As such, winter was never a favourite of mine. Fall colours? Iconic. Spring showers? I’ve danced in many. Long, mild, summer evenings, watching the sun go down for what feels like hours? Perfection. But I just never understood the appeal of winter. Then I met Becky.
Becky grew up in Ontario, where the winters are much more classically picturesque, and she’s obsessed with winter. While we were living in Vancouver, she convinced me to try skiing once while she went snowboarding. Which was fun, but only when we moved to Prince George did I really start to understand what winter is all about. Don’t get me wrong, real winters bring plenty of stress, but the tradeoff is pretty spectacular.
The Season of Stillness
There’s something about a duvet of snow and ice covering the earth that muffles the noise of life and the world in a way I think we all need more than we know. This winter, our first big snow dump was 35cm in 24hrs. Yes, getting around was harder, and leaving the house takes longer when you need to be prepared for -30. But I think that’s kind of the point: winter, real winter, forces everything to slow down. And if we embrace that slowness, a quiet magic becomes tangible. The world seems more beautiful, because there’s more space and time for beauty to enter us. And what better way to find that magic, that beauty, than by venturing out into the winter, feeling it on our skin and in our lungs so it becomes undeniable. Sometimes, it makes me want to just retreat into the forest and become feral so I can be wrapped in wonderment forever.
Winter is a time of adventure. Even a walk up the street suddenly becomes a spectacular trek. Last year, our first northern winter, Becky and I tried as many activities as we could. We got season passes to the Outdoor Ice Oval and I finally became a decent skater. We did a cross country ski lesson at Caledonia Nordic, which turned out to be a great way of getting the winter all over us, including down the back of our jackets when we fall down. It was slightly tentative on my part, but as it turned out, I loved it all. This year, now that I’m a little more acclimated (I’m oddly proud that I no longer feel the need to put gloves on when I take the garbage out in -20), we’ve been going even harder. We bought cross-country ski setups from Stride and Glide Sports, we bought snowshoes, which allowed to us to visit Chun T’Oh Whudujut (the Ancient Forest) on Christmas Eve, a place that is already wrapped in stillness and quiet, so it positively explodes with that winter magic. Another favourite of mine is tobogganing (which also has the benefit of being much cheaper than a lot of the others). If you think of that as just an activity for kids, go find a hill right now and slide on down. Try not to cackle with glee, I dare you. Even simple things like a nighttime walk become infused with mystery. A few weeks ago, I ended up wandering around our neighbourhood for an hour because there was glitter floating in the air: tiny particles of moisture, suspended between water and ice, sparkling against the dark sky. I kept hoping to witness the moment they actually turned to snowflakes, which always seemed seconds away.
Seeing the Magic
A few days later, Becky and I walked up Connaught Hill. We were halfway up when she stopped me to look out over the city. Even though it was full dark, the moon and stars were reflecting off the snow, then off the sky again, and so on to infinity, filling the air with a warm winter glow. Seeing her look out over the world from above, I realized that’s what winter does – that magic is always there, but winter lets us see it and feel it more than any other time of year.