There’s deep snow underfoot and fluffy flurries falling as I walk in late afternoon light. It’s Ontario in the midst of a freezing Canadian winter, and I’m shovelling to clear the driveway, playing on skates, skis and snowshoes, taking endless photographs and piling on layer after layer to stay warm. I grab wool, down, boots, fleeces, gloves, hat, more down and sunglasses and am rewarded with whiteness, shadows, a glowing body, aching muscles and a warm dram at night. There’s no guilt.
Guilt? For enjoying winter?
We had snow too when I was little, growing up on a Scottish dairy farm which was perched at the top of a steep slippery brae. There was only one focus every snowy morning; the long farm track had to be ploughed and sanded for the daily visit of the milk tanker. The pot-bellied lorry had to power its way up the hill and manoeuvre round the bends to reverse into position outside the dairy, unhook its long pipe and suck the bulk tank dry because a herd of cows was already gearing up to fill it all over again . And they couldn’t wait.
It seemed the jeopardy was with us every morning. Would this be the day the snow and ice would prove to be too much and we’d have to pour the hard-earned milk down the drain? We kids had the family farm work ethic; we knew it mattered.
My father and the men would spend the morning scraping and sanding the road then hook a tractor to pull the tanker up and up, climbing round the dangerous slippery drops which fell to the river far below. We’d listen for the sound, willing the engine noise to slowly draw closer and roar outside the farmhouse window. Not until it was safely back down the hill could we children make slides and throw snowballs, knowing that all was well with the world. Until the next day.
It’s a lifetime ago but carefree snow is still a novelty. This week I’m embracing it.