Dook’s Look Back: Winter’s Disappearing Act

Published in  the April May issue of EDGEYK magazine: 

Every year Spring surprised us. Spring ripped through the winter weather like old Dr. O’Donahugh’s surgical knife; confident, gleaming and ultimately healing.

All winter we sank our scarved chins into our parka chests and plodded through the snow.  We were as cranky as the staring ravens who sat on top of telephone poles with fluffed up feathers, frost-rimmed faces and a bad attitude. We were as mean as the conniving black birds that teamed up to steal food from the neighbour’s dog, one unconcerned and preening inches beyond reach, and the other dragging the dish of food by his beak. We were as resourceful as those large, cocky corvids that rocked a garbage can until it fell over and the lid popped off and suddenly there was dinner, gleaming under the pale moonlight and strewn appealingly across our driveway like a frozen smorgasbord.

Spring leaped upon us and ripped the lid clean off our garbage cans.

We did not waste energy out of doors. Nobody ran. The ground underfoot was too uncertain and the air sharp and dangerous. Also, I was too myopic to see in the dark but 40 below was sure to frost my glasses over and freeze them to my face, so I left them off, thereby compounding my natural, inherited blindness. In such a state of near-sightedness  in thick night, swathed from the crown of my head to my feet, I stumbled and drifted to Sir John Franklin High School. In the quiet and still of the morning, with no sound but snow squeaking under my boots, and nothing to do but follow the street lights to school and try to unstuck my eyelashes when they froze together while keeping the circulation going in my fingers, I had time to meditate on my lot in life. I wondered why my parents hadn’t chosen someplace warm to live and work and raise their teenage children?

Other teenagers, I was sure, enjoyed perpetual summer. They wore short sleeves outdoors and hung around burger joints and had tans. The drugstore sold Archie Comics, so I knew it was true.

And then, always unexpected, Spring leaped upon us and ripped the lid clean off our garbage cans, to use a Northern metaphor, suddenly exposing all kinds of things that had been covered by the cloak of winter.

The sidewalks cleared of snow and people hung about the street corners downtown, smoking cigarettes and spitting into the gutter with an optimistic air.

The sky lightened. The sun shone until the snow sparkled and you could see your neighbour smile. He may have smiled in the winter, but if he did his scarf disguised it from you, and besides, what was there to smile about in winter?

Birds began to sing, ravens flew past croaking with the sheer joy of life and the unfrozen stolen garbage dinners. The snow melted in three days and water rushed past in the streets, as melodious as babbling brooks, though perhaps more full of cigarette butts and litter.

It was the water that did it for me. It was the snow banks that shrank and got dirtier and dirtier until they disappeared altogether and the air was finally, finally warm enough to not freeze skin.

Such exhilaration! Such delight! Having cast off the shackles of winter, we were free; and as happy as a raven that had knocked the lids off of hundreds of garbage cans to feast on the spoils.

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