Yeah it’s cold. I’m not a fan of winter. I used to love it when I was a kid but now that I’m old and crotchety I have a distinct dislike for it. The wind cuts through you, chilling you to the bone, your boots and pants get covered in salt stains, it’s icy, traffic sucks and all I want to do is stay home drink coffee and watch TV.
When I was kid though winter was amazing. Yeah it was cold but I don’t remember it bothering me as much. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have to worry about things like how long it will take me to get from point A to point B, and wearing snow pants all the time made the salt stain problem nonexistent. The other thing I remember was there seemed to be an abundance of fun to be had out in the snow with my friends.
I have very fond memories of playing in the snow. I remember going into the field across the street and building snow forts with my dad. It seems like we got way more snow in those days, or maybe it’s just because I was smaller so everything seemed bigger. My dad and I went across the road, climbed over the old wooden fence that was originally designed to keep in horses but hadn’t served that purpose in decades. Made our way through the tree line until we got to the huge open field with shovels in hand. And we began to dig. We dug as far down as we could and then piled up the snow until we eventually had a pretty decent fort.
Until I was around 11 or 12 years old I used to dress up all the time. I was always pretending to be someone else. So on this occasion I had dressed up like an 18th century voyageur. One of the early Quebec settlers who forged the land and traded pelts with the natives and worked for the Hudson Bay company. I had a satchel strapped to my side, big mitts and a warm tuque (that’s a hat for winter, I really have no other word for it). I looked the part. My dad trudged around the fort on snowshoes piling on more snow, patting it down, adding some more and patting it down again. These were good times, there’s even a photo of that day floating around somewhere, I’ll have to ask my mom for it so I can attach it to this post eventually.
Because of where we lived, in the servants quarters on a huge plot of land that was largely unused these kinds of adventures were the norm. Building snow forts and exploring the land on snow shoes was routine. On a winter evening when the usually familiar landscape became a barren alien wasteland. I was discovering a new world, travelling the arctic or fighting Imperials on Hoth. The arrival of snow, lots of snow, created limitless prospects for adventure.
Our back patio had stairs leading down from the door to the patio and because the house was on top of a hill the ground was actually about 4 feet below this. When we shoveled off those stairs we dumped that snow on the ground beside them. Eventually this pile of snow was as high as the top of the stairs, with a little work adding extra needed snow. Every year this became my toboggan run. I’d dump water on it, manicure it, get to the right combination of ice and snow until I was able to throw myself down the run on my sled. I’d hurtle down the lawn all the way to the sunken garden, which in the summer was a strict no go zone lest I crush my dad’s tomato plants. But in the winter this garden was a landing pad. This was where I would inevitably crash after flying off the ramp I’d built at the end of the luge run. It probably took a total of 3 seconds to go from the top of the run to crashing into the powdered snow of the garden. But it was the most exhilarating 3 seconds of my life, or at least of that day. I made sure the ramp was sturdy enough to not collapse under the weight of my sled. Piling up snow, adding water to freeze it, putting cardboard, more snow, more water. Turns out I was quite the engineer when I was 8.
What happened? When did winter stop being fun? Is it because I don’t ski or snowboard? Is it because I don’t live with that kind of backdrop to take my kids outside? Is it because I don’t own snow pants? I should really get some snow pants. It feels colder now, winter to me now is just cold and ice. It used to seem mild with snow falling everyday adding to the possibilities for adventure. Is it because when it snows all I see are minutes added onto my commute to and from work? I need to get out more in the winter. It’s a vicious cycle as you get older. Summer I’m always out doing stuff and in the winter I hibernate and get fat, then summer get outside try to lose that bearlike winter weight and then start the process all over again by the time my birthday rolls around in October. I’m going to get out this winter. I have snow shoes. My son has snow shoes, he also has a case of Idontwanna but I’ll soon fix him of that. This year I’m committed to finding an adventure outside. Of course I say that now while I’m inside and warm. But I think it’s high time my kids and I fight the Imperials on Hoth.
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