Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It’s Winter in Canada


“What good is the warmth of summer,
without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: 
In Search of America (1962)

Cold Winter Morning: Looking at the park outside my sixth-floor window on December 30, 2017. The blue effect was unintentional; the colour blue is also associated with sadness, but also with calmness. In this photo nature appear more striking in comparison to what is in the foreground. The boundary between the two is noticeable. 
Photo Credit: ©2017. Perry J. Greenbaum

It’s winter in Canada, which makes me think of my childhood and winter in my native city, Montréal, or Montreal in English, the city of my birth, the one which informed my thinking and which was an endearing and enduring presence in my life, and thus for reasons that need not be explained to any Montrealer holds many memories for me.

This is also the city where as a young child I first slid down Mont-Royal on a wooden toboggan (the kind with red metal runners), my father behind me holding me tight, excited and fearful at the speed of it all as we deepened the groove in the snow, getting to our final destination at the bottom of the hill. Only to trudge back up and do it all again until feelings of elated exhaustion tell me it’s time to go home.

Montreal gets a lot of snow (an annual average of 210 cm, or 82 inches), making Mont-Royal a pretty sight from a distance, seeing it is covered with a blanket of whiteness. This sameness can be either comforting or tiring, as I have written about previously when I lived in Montreal. Even so, it remains like a faithful friend. It is the change of seasons that makes a city unforgettable, as Steinbeck reminds us.

There is no getting away from him, Old Man Winter. Yet, in Montreal, you know that it is winter and it will remain so until mid-April. There might be some warm days where the temperature rises to 5°C and you feel elated, but there is often a long stretch of cold days below O°C, dropping to minus 20°C or even minus 30°C with a wind chill of minus 40°C or 45°C. This has been the case the last two weeks. It does not feel like global warming, but like an old-fashioned winter.

The cold weather and the snow forces you to dress for the season—hat or toque, gloves, sweater, good winter jacket or coat and good warm fur-lined boots. It’s about the layers. I even bought and wore long underwear for the first time in decades; it kept me warm. I plan to buy a few more pairs so comfortable do I find them.

Winter can convey many different images, including rest, death, or tranquility. The term “blanket of snow” can either be comforting, as a blanket is, or it can be the opposite, since snow is cold and damp. I prefer to view a blanket of snow as a term of beauty, where there is a felt peacefulness in this picture. The sound of the crunching snow as boot hits ground can also be appealing to the ear, as one makes his way to his destination.

Montreal is home, no matter where I live, a fact and a feeling that becomes stronger the longer I am away. Montréal c’est toi ma ville. Toujours. 

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