Thoughts of Pioneers. And More Snow.
As may have become apparent (from all the whining?), Southern Ontario has been having the winter from hell and yes, this again, because as I may have mentioned, there’s nothing else to do or think about! Anyway, a lot of other areas have also been hit hard (or harder), but as I live in southern Ontario, I'm going to limit my discussion to that geographical zone (I have decided not to take any more pictures of snow - I mean, how many do you need? - but if you feel the need for illustrative photos, go here).
It is so hellish that it is hard to remember last year's drought, how all this snow is going to mean good things for Ontario's produce the summer and that come June and July, I'm going to be ecstatically munching strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, etc., etc. I mean, there's going to be flooding north of Toronto because Lake Simcoe is full. Full!
On Friday afternoon, I was keeping an eye on yet another storm approaching, one that all the weather reporters were very excited about, to the point of almost having meteorological orgasms on the air, with its promise of being the biggest storm in a season of big storms. Not just CityTV, which in its coverage of the weather (and a lot of other things) tends to err on the side of catastrophe - no, every single meteorologist jumped on the bandwagon, including the Weather Network website which linked to a report on "menacing snowstorm in southern Ontario" and maybe it's because I'm a writer and hence a little obsessive about the words, but can a snowstorm be menacing? Don't you have to have some sort of consciousness in order to be menacing? But I digress. My point is that again and not for the first time this winter, I got to thinking about the people who settled this country and their experience of Canadian winter.
It's been in my mind lately, when every three days it snows anywhere from 5 cm to 30 and where I've been checking the weather network website at least once a day, looking for when the storms are going to hit, how big they're going to be, how much of the white stuff is going to accumulate and making my plans accordingly, stocking up on groceries and rearranging appointments. And I've been thinking of what it must have been like living in a small town or farm or cabin 200 years ago and having no idea when the next storm is going to hit, if the snow that's falling prettily will grow into a snarling beast and not knowing when it is going to end. Of having to tie a rope from the house to the barn in order not to get lost on the way to take care of the animals (read that in a Little House on the Prairie book 30 years ago and it’s always stuck with me). It's making me understand cabin fever, because lord knows, I have it in spades. But because of my access to various forms of weather information, I have this weird sense of control over something which is inherently uncontrollable and I suspect that's the main reason that I haven't gone absolutely stark raving mad, taken an ax to someone and eaten them half-cooked while raving incoherently into my beard. Well, not that I have a beard, but you get the picture.
What must that have been like? Not knowing if you have enough food to last until spring or enough hay for the animals, wood for the stove and most of all, when the winds start howling, whipping the snow horizontally outside the window and through the gaps in between the window and the frame, creating nothing but a wall of white that might last for 12 hours or 24 or 36 or maybe forever, because during a really good blizzard, it’s like the end of the world. I am not scared by this kind of weather, but I am pretty sure it’s only because I know where it's coming from and when it's going to leave. I can imagine sitting in that cabin, huddled in the quilt while the last log is burning in the stove and being frightened out of my wits because the snow has reached the eaves and I don't know if I'm going to make it. That people stayed here is a testament to their fortitude. Or an indication of how bad the alternative back in the old world was.
But we’re not pioneers (thank various divinities for that). We’ve been having the winter from hell, but even though part of me felt like crying as I was watching the coverage of Friday's storm that promised to dump anywhere from 25 to 35 more centimetres, another part of me has decided that I would like a little more snow (somebody catch Rachel H. - she's about to faint). Hear me out. After this weekend, we’re 17.8cm away from beating the previous record of 207.4cm (6.8 feet) and maybe it's just me and that infernal competitive instinct, but if we have to suffer through all this, let's at least do it for a reward(?) less delayed then strawberries in June. Because I'm not sure I would be able to handle having had to live through this winter if we clock in just shy of a record. And if we are going to beat the record, let’s pound that sucker into the dirt. Let’s obliterate the record, wipe the floor with it, have one that goes down in the history books so we can for the rest of our lives be able to lord it over anyone who thinks they've had bad by saying we lived through the winter of 07/08 and have them roll over, knowing that we can't be beat. Which means I’m hoping for at least another 30 cm, but as we're not even halfway through March, that shouldn't be a problem. Who's with me?