Canadians think Americans are loopy anyway. But if you really want to evoke eye-rolling and dark mutterings from our northern neighbors try saying this to a Canadian:
“I’m from Florida and I’m here for the snow.”
In December. In Ottawa.
And we’re not talking about skiing. I ski. I fall down. I break something. That way lies disaster.
No, I just love the snow. I like to walk in it. To savor its fresh, sharp scent and biting touch. It’s a walk on the wild side. I’m a stranger in a strange land.
Once my backpacking group, the Shining Rock Orienteering Society (AKA Old Florida Guys In Hot Pursuit Of Their Lost Youth) were hiking in snowy Rocky Mountain National Park. People kept looking at us funny because my fellow Orienteer, Louis Kalivoda, was wearing shorts. It’s just Florida Man folks, nothing to be alarmed about.
It is true that I have lived in Florida for more than 60 years. But the first seven years of my life was spent in Pennsylvania. And I still have memories of waking up on winter mornings and discovering that the world outside had turned white and magical.
Listen, to this day I can’t watch “Christmas Story” without tearing up.
The best day I ever spent in New York City happened because there was a blizzard and my flight home got canceled. I went for a long walk through Central Park in a driving snowfall (listening to Sinatra on a Walkman) and had the time of my life. I had lunch at Tavern On The Green and later went to the Algonquin Hotel for scotch. Move over Dorothy Parker.
So here I am at the age of 72, and a confirmed denizen of the Sunshine State. But there is nothing for it. Every now and then I’ve simply got to go looking for snow. Which is why Canadians find me such an odd duck. But there it is.
I’m a bizarre example of rare reverse tourism. The Air Canada plane headed north had quite a few empty seats. On the return trip to Orlando (aka Land Of The Mouse) it was full up.
Ottawa is one of my favorite cities. I have ridden bicycles there and walked for miles around Parliament Hill and along the Ottawa River. But always in the summer or fall. This time we arrived just in time to take in the Christmas Lights Up Canada festival in Confederation Park. They handed us lighted candles and we walked in a snowfall among gaily lighted trees and sculptures.
The next day I walked along the celebrated Rideau Canal locks. The last time I was here it was crawling with tourists and boaters who were patiently waiting out the long lift up or down. Now I had the place to myself.
Strolling along the Ottawa River was a bleak experience…all whites and browns and grays. Then I came upon a spot where someone had left flowers next to a small plaque of an angelic figure and another that said “Peace And Grace.” I know there’s a story there.
Had tea with the suffragettes near Parliament. Still waiting patiently for Hell to freeze over.
The last time I visited Maj. Hill’s Park we laid down in the soft green grass and took in the sunshine. Things change.
And the snow leaves room for interpretation.
The mutant spider at the National Gallery was still assaulting that cathedral across the street. But it seemed to be moving more sluggishly.
We had taken a cabin on Otty Lake for the month of July. This time we had to hike in because the road was blocked.
In nearby Perth is Steward Park. When last we saw it, kids were swimming in the Tay River. Now not so much.
And downtown Perth has certainly changed.
Although we did meet a woman who was shoveling snow off the sidewalk and told us “It’s very mild today.” I love that sort of optimism.
I’m only saying that if you decide to cross that bridge, the snow presents new and infinite possibilities.
So don’t be a grump. Enjoy the moment. Just be sure to dress appropriately.
It’s a wonderful life. Get out in it. And leave footprints.
I’m a Floridian but I love the snow. So sue me, Canada.
Plus, I’m not the only one.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’” Lewis Carroll.
“A cold wind was blowing from the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things.”
“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.”
“With luck, it might even snow for us.”
“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person”
“The snow began to fall again, drifting against the windows, politely begging entrance and then falling with disappointment to the ground”
“I love snow for the same reason I love Christmas: It brings people together while time stands still.
“To want to understand is an attempt to recapture something we have lost.”