After a long few months of autumn and Indian summer, blowing over into the territory of usual Canadian winter, the perennial hope that the cold would never come this year was roused, leaving people more disillusioned than ever when it eventually did arrive, slick at their doorsteps. Dimly lit living rooms had all eyes on the television set, their faces downcast as the news augured a snow squall setting in upon the area. City maintenance trucks warmed their engines, and commuters dreaded the traffic stalls they’d face the following morning. And, sure enough, the pre-dawn porches were thick with a billion white, infinitesimal flakes. The ashen faces that dared to peer out their front doors were clouted with violent eddies of precipitate, their hands blasted as they ferreted out the half-buried roll of newspaper by their feet.
Though I hadn’t the heady blitheness of my 5 year old daughter at the sight of snow, I had it better than most: I was able to work from home, and, for the most part, I could revel in oblivion while the bitter cold gale worked its way in, dispensing its assault carelessly into the fate of numerous lives. Standing behind my screen door, I wondered whether this wintry austerity didn’t have an important lesson to it. Would it suffice to simply move south, to Florida, evading all of these atmospheric inflictions? I glanced down to a head nudging my shin; This was my dog’s daily habit, reminding me of his walk and of my present reality. Listless and heavy from indulging my grievances, I slapped on my coat and left my awning, dog by side and face sternly forward. Today, I decided, we’d go on a long walk.
While we’d settled in stretches of old suburbia, my wife and I, we were fortunate enough to have close access to the local trails that coursed through Southern Ontario, a great escape for our thick-set hound who, on hikes, scampered to and fro with the determination of a hell-bent military officer. Though it was well below -10 C, the sun was bright, and the light it cast on the fresh heaps of snow was a sight for which I could be grateful. We set off into the glistening barren wood, and the quiet of the surrounding space weighed on me, my senses crying for a way back to warmth. Nevertheless, we kept on, and my spirits were lifted, seeing my old dog plod clumsily through the powdered fields, with an almost increasingly playful air about him, the worse the snow fared him. I’d forgotten the cold for a moment, and I felt a funny solace in having withdrawn from the stable conveniences of my home. I noticed my companion tearing toward the summit of the hill, making his way toward the old oak tree my daughter loved to climb. It stood there, more dignified than ever, its branches adorned with sun-struck crystal sleeves. That old tree was barely wizened by the brisk winter air, and its robust trunk assured me that it was hale enough to house the squirrels and birds for many more winters to come. It was in this moment that I realized, with perfect resoluteness, that the branches of wintertide were deep-rooted in me.