Family Lines

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Tag: snow

Winter in summer

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park - Kananaskis Country.

Aug. 22, 2015. Chester Lake trail – Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country.

It’s still August but that doesn’t mean it won’t snow in Alberta. Here’s proof that the dog days of summer in the mountains can be white and cold. At least the sun is shining and the lake hasn’t frozen over…yet.

Whatever the weather, it’s not time to reminisce about another season passing. It’s not time to move on to making autumn memories. No. The calendar says summer and darn it, I’m going to enjoy every last drop of it. Even if those drops come in a frozen form usually found in winter. Summer snow makes a cool story anyway for those of you sweltering in the heat.

Snotember

snow.

A Calgary summer day.

A summer snow storm hit Calgary this past week. It wasn’t the pretty pre-Christmas snow that covers up all the dead leaves on the ground and causes kids to rush out to play. No, this was an ugly, messy, very, very cold and very unwanted first week of September snow. Not good at all.

Since all the leaves are still on the trees, the falling snow took many branches along for the ride to the ground. The heavy, wet snow piled up and up and up amongst the green foliage until they went down. All night and day the snap and crackle of the trees could be heard, along with the eventual whoosh of an avalanche of snow and leaves hitting the earth. Now in the sunny aftermath days later, it’s the chainsaws that are making the noise.

City crews and private companies are clearing away the hundreds of pieces of debris strewn across power lines, streets, sidewalks and countless yards. The jagged-edge whir of the chainsaw can be heard just about everywhere above the din of the vehicles and sirens that are usually part of the inner-city babble. The chainsaw sound is more at home in rural areas and I remember it well.

downed trees.

Piles of downed branches. Scenes like this are repeated on many Calgary streets.

My parents used and still use, wood to heat their large two-storey house in Nova Scotia. Evenings were always comfy and cozy beside the wood stove but mornings were another matter. They were cold. On weekdays dad would get up first and get the stove going. On weekends it was us kids who were up first. And freezing. We learned at a young age how to coax the embers of the fire back into a flame strong enough to burn the logs.

In the middle of summer cords of wood would be delivered to our home in the country and stacked on our front lawn. Dad would get out his chainsaw and cut the logs up and throw them into a pile. A pile to be chopped and then in the fall, trucked into our two-car garage. (The garage has never been used for vehicles. Only wood.) When I write “trucked” I actually mean wheel-barrowed in by me and my family: my dad, mom and two sisters.

From ages nine though to 15 I really, really, really, really hated this chore. It wasn’t hard but it was monotonous. Go to the big wood pile, load up the wheel-barrow, walk about 12 metres to the garage, dump the wood, put it on the stack – neatly – pick up the wheel-barrow, walk back and repeat. It was maddening when there were so many other things to do like talk to my friends on the phone.

Later in my teen years I started really liking piling wood. It was exercise and something to do outside when the weather was too chilly for a bicycle ride. As well, teenage years are full of change and piling wood was one thing that always stayed the same. Plus, it didn’t call for a fashion-forward wardrobe.

hearth.

The wood stove in the house I grew up in.

Thanksgiving Day was always the best day for wood piling. Usually this would be the last push to get all the logs needed for winter under the shelter of a roof. We’d start in the morning in the weak sunshine. It was cold but there would be no snow on the ground yet. By mid-afternoon the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie cooking in the oven would waft through the garage door from the kitchen. That would be our reward after a satisfying and good day’s work.

Thanksgiving is several weeks away and winter is supposed to be months away. Since it’s still summer, we’re supposed to be eating ice cream and watermelon and enjoying the last of this season’s rays. Not eating pumpkin pie and shovelling snow. Oh well. Has anyone found any pumpkin ice cream?

First snow

Snow-covered tree.

A snow-covered tree branch sticks out over downtown Calgary, November 2013.

When the snow starts flying in fall, it’s the most beautiful. The light outside turns silver. Not that thin autumn sunshine or grey-tinged gloominess. The air surrounding Calgary turns moist for a few hours and chases the dryness away.

Everything becomes quiet. People scurry inside to get away from the snowflakes falling from the sky. Pets aren’t walked. Vehicles are parked and left until the next day.

Street signs and grassy bits collect the snow at the beginning. Then the roads and sidewalks get a coating of the plush frozen carpet. In Calgary not much accumulates with the first dump but in the Maritimes – the beginning of snowfall means a heavy one and is as normal as the sun rising. I remember those storms of my childhood.

A Maritime snowstorm also has snow and wind. Terrible wind. Gusting here and there and everywhere. Leaving the snow in high impassable drifts in the middle of roads and causing white-outs so bad you’d think you were stuck in a cloud.

When inside the haven of home, comfy and cozy by a wood stove, you can hear the wind blasting at the door. Trying to get in. It strikes at the windows too and wants to push them open. And then take its cold hands and grab you by the throat so you can’t breathe.

The snow and wind sometimes fight each other. Which is stronger? The snow, with its hardened, chill-to-the-bone ice flakes, keeps coming steadily. Hoping to outlast the wind. Hoping to exhaust the wind. But the wind, the wind keeps at the snow. Pushing it around. Toying with it. Sending it here and there and everywhere. Hoping to force it to a standstill. Hoping to batter it into submission.

Falling snow.

Snow falls swiftly and heavily in Nova Scotia and it’s (almost) always accompanied by a wind.

The wind and snow don’t realize they’re a force of nature if they work together. Thick tree branches break and fall to earth. Because of the wind? Because of the snow piled on them? Because of their combined strength. Instead of acknowledging this, they continue to wage war against each other.

Eventually, one or the other (or both) decides that’s that. That’s enough. They’re not putting any more energy into the battle. The snow slows. Then stops. The wind lessens its grip on the earth. Then floats away. Who won? In the end, I don’t know.

 

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