Apparently with no surprise
To any happy Flower
The Frost beheads it at its play—
In accidental power —
The blonde Assassin passes on—
The Sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another Day
For an Approving God.
– Emily Dickinson
Another day in February here in New Brunswick and, yet again, more snow than our well-settled community can cope with easily. We’ve all seen snow before, but even the hardiest among us cannot recall anything quite like this.
Just the other day I found myself on some streets that I hadn’t traveled since the first of the big storms and, I confess, I was amazed. And these were not side streets; snow-bound major bus routes had me squeezing off to the side to avoid collisions with oncoming traffic. I was equally dismayed when I stopped by the grocery store and was confronted by snow mountains in the parking lot. Now, we’re all accustomed to oversize landscapes when the plows have done their work but this was something else again. I felt as though I had an opportunity, should I choose to pursue it, to experience an alien landscape. Height is something you expect of snowbanks in parking lots during the winter but it was the depth that amazed me. I don’t think the stores are going to be crowded out any time soon, but the proximity of these behemoths to parking spaces ordinarily well-removed from such accumulations seemed almost intimidating. If anything can be said to “loom”, these banks were certainly looming.
Weather is an important thing everywhere, no doubt, but countries that tend to experience extremes throughout the year are especially prone to having the weather become THE ice-breaker in conversation. A few years ago, I spent a summer month in Northern California. Every day – no exaggeration – the temperature moved within one or two degrees of 90 Fahrenheit and I did not see a cloud, at least not that I can remember. I clearly recall the elation I felt when I came home, looked up at clouds in the sky, and felt a breeze blowing off the water. For a good portion of the year, in certain places (the part of California I was visiting is one of them), you can completely ignore the weather, simply because you know it is going to be essentially the same tomorrow as it was today and the day before. Go ahead and make that plan for a birthday party six weeks from now! So strange for someone like me to see such assumptions at work.
Beyond the weather itself, even more unusual for me was how absent conversation surrounding climate really was. Does a day ever go by in our neighbourhood where we don’t spend some time assessing either the immediate conditions or the trends we’ve seen over the last while? I had some guys in this morning to look at some repairs I need done and it didn’t take long for us to begin a comparative analysis of this winter to last. In summary, the consensus was that last winter was tougher overall but nothing could quite compare to the last 4 or five weeks, both for the sheer volume of snow and for the persistent bitter chill.
We have so many reasons to be grateful for where we live. Some would argue that the weather represents something we must endure, an unfortunate consequence that we can’t do much about other than accept. Personally, I prefer to see it as our particular “world”. Among other things, travel has taught me just how particular each world truly is. While my travel mode – figuring everything out on my own – isn’t for everyone, I prefer it to organized touring because I feel it gets me closer to the reality of the places I visit. In my experience, the organized tour insulates you from many of the experiences that might reveal most about a place and its people.
We have it good here in snowbank New Brunswick. Winters such as this one bring challenges and frayed nerves certainly, but ours is still largely a world where we can feel secure in our homes and free from the threats of violence that seem to affect more and more places every day. If people stay away from our part of the world because they find the climate unwelcoming and the pace of things a little too slow, I understand. But this is the world that many of us call home. And I have no doubt, if suddenly we turned tropical, a part of all of us would miss the storms and the unpredictability of it all. More than a few conversations would never even get started.