Upon mentioning – or complaining about – the cold this winter, Yukoners immediately correct me, stating that the weather we’ve endured for the past several months does not remotely count as a real Yukon winter. However, arriving north of 60 after living in the Middle East for nine years, my Canadian blood has thinned to the point of placing a gentle reminder to the Yukon population… it’s still bloody cold. I’ve been living out the season as the idiot to winter and the dunce to darkness. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming with the first snowfall when I was exuberant with giddy joy and the rest of the town knitted their brows in a bracing-themselves manner. Time started draining itself into winter.
In early December, I was walking into school late, but confident. I thought I had a perfectly valid excuse as I had to conquer a mammoth amount a layering getting dressed. I discovered that the electrical plug on our car wasn’t because it was part eco-friendly electric, but a block heater plug in. Scrape the car, wait, then pray for it to warm up. I faced the school secretary head on with my excuse for lateness in tow, before it dawned on me: everyone else had to do this, too. The way of winter life had started and I was woefully behind.
I developed my “winter legs,” which were always slightly bent, prepared for a slip on the ice. Down coats and fur liners became the height of fashion. I started wearing the temperature like a heroic badge of survival, with greater pride as the thermometer plunged further into the negatives (always including wind chill). My shorts retreated to the back of my closet. I headed to the stores to discover, when cold, one can justify an unholy number of jackets. Christmas stockings were stuffed with warm mitts, hats and socks. It was the first time I was genuinely excited to receive clothes from Santa. I slowly developed the rhythm to this way of life. The weekdays were about creating traction with the snow, through road salt and winter tires. I ploughed on with daily life despite Mother Nature’s opposing plans. But the weekends? They were filled with utter joy of sliding on the snow in skis.
Now, in the midst of winter’s teasing departure, I realize I expected to find the beauty in winter through intricate snowflakes and breathtaking landscapes. What I didn’t expect was to find beauty in the people. There’s something about the winter here that draws people together. It’s more than the small population combined with communal suffering, it’s the darkness that draws people home and brings people together. When next November rolls in, it’ll be the togetherness, the stars in the sky, the lights on the streets and the warm inviting glow from the windows that will still fill me with the same giddy joy at the first snowfall.