Article by Ed Riche
My teenage daughter likes staying up late and sleeping-in, so she takes snow-days as certain proof of a creator.
My wife, who is from Nova Scotia, hates our winter weather and points to it as evidence of her otherwise unsupportable contention that the climate here is markedly worse than it is across the Gulf in the Scottish Province. Like it’s the Riviera of the Maritimes over there.
In the same way the climate in the South of France is ideal for humans, Newfoundland’s is the sweet spot for dogs. My dog is the product of the unholy Gear Street congress of some burly Lab and a Bearded Collie and is really only comfortable outdoors after it has snowed. She gleefully rolls in the white stuff until it is time to snooze in a deep drift.
In the old days, living downtown among the busted and free, one didn’t feel obliged to accompany their mutt on their rounds. Now the ever looming lovers of rules mean you’ve no choice but to bundle up and take Rover round the block. The ice underfoot, slippery as lard, ever in anticipation of going arse over tea-kettle, makes it the kind of sphincter-tingling experience usually reserved for young men in the theatre.
There is a lovely myth that the Inuit have something like fifty different words for snow.
I know that townies have a number of phrases for it including, “Take me now, Jesus” and “Your father is going to have a heart-attack out there” and “I can’t cope, I can’t” and “Newfoundland, why?” In the downtown, with its on-street parking you sometimes hear snow described as “if missus takes my place again I swear I’m gonna murder ‘er.”
When I lived on The Higher Levels in a house on “The Fresh” without a driveway I mastered the art of skidding my vehicle directly sideways into a pocket, inches bigger than the car itself, which I’d carved in the towering snow banks created by the plows. And I did once kill and successfully hide the body of this creepy dude who took my spot.
But while its ceaseless accumulation is a cause of unpatriotic thoughts there are benefits. Shoveling out the driveway invariably leads to conversation with the neighbours, chins pitched on the knitted gloves atop the handle. It makes for community.
St. John’s Parks become Currier and Ives with a touch of frosting. Pippy Park, with its skiing and sledding is a virtual Nordic fantasia, healthful enough to make one dizzy. The snow sets off the rolling stands of conifers so that for a brief interval you really can see the forest for the trees up there.
The snow at once quiets and brightens the town. It mutes the squawks and beeps and sirens (the frequency of which in St. John’s is unknown in New York or Paris). It reflects the street lighting and even the moon to illuminate our longest nights.
But by April there is need of spring and dry socks and for all its lucent wonder when we see the snow still falling, however faintly, there is only one word that comes to mind.