Chronicles

Old Man Winter
by: Mike Lushington  

            I wish that we could get a good snowfall.

            No, it isn't that I want to see the woods filled with the stuff for good cross country skiing or snowshoeing. It is simply that a couple of feet of snow piled up around the foundations of the old house make for warmth and cosiness. Instead, the place shows its age, especially in conditions such as we endured a couple of weeks ago. In other words, it has been cold. Even when the furnace chugs almost non-stop, the basement and the downstairs, especially on the windward walls, are chilly - and the upstairs heats up to the point where it is uncomfortable to sleep.

            The old people, living in these rather drafty older houses, used to hope for an early and abundant snowfall for just that reason. It was, and is, poor folks insulation. With the snow piled along the walls, these old houses become very comfortable indeed and, because they are not completely airtight, they always have an adequate amount of fresh air that makes for healthy living.And, it goes without saying, it is much cheaper to heat when the winds don't blow from west to east across the living room floor.

            Other than that, I haven't minded the lack of snow. There has been enough for excellent skiing at Les Aventuriers trails in Mountain Brook since before Christmas. People are surprised to find that out, but that area seems to be a local snow trap - snow will accumulate around the Charlo Dam Head pond even when there is very little almost anywhere else. The other day, for example, I left home under overcast skies after we had received a few centimetres of fresh snow. When I got to the chalet it was snowing. I stayed there for two hours, during which time, it snowed lightly but continuously. When I left to return home, I had to remove several centimetres of new snow from my van. When I arrived back in Pt. la Nim, I discovered that we had gotten no new snow at all in that time.

            Even in the woods in back of home, though, the skiing has been good this winter. The bit that we received before Christmas got thoroughly soaked with the heavy rains of late December and then froze into an extremely durable base for the few flurries that have passed by since. The end product is not deep - it remained good for walking until the snowfall of last week - but it covered all the rocks, roots and smaller branches, making for good off-trails skiing. Snowmobilers, of course, would disagree; it hasn't been a great winter for them thus far. And I can only commiserate with the poor folk who are trying to run things at Sugarloaf.

            On the other hand, the ice is firmly in place in the estuary and the smelt fishers are having a great run. Even the big rigs have been set up in mid channel for more than a week now. That is earlier than last winter, if I remember correctly, and much earlier than the terrible season they had two years ago, when conditions permitted only a season of two or three weeks, and at least one lead, out from Point a la Garde, remained open for the entire winter.

            In the end, it always comes down to the old clichés: "every cloud has a silver lining", "one person's blessing is another's bane", and so on. Increasingly I find myself realizing that there is really no such thing as bad weather (well, I'm still not sure about freezing rain); it is all just weather than presents different challenges and different opportunities.

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