Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mother Nature's on the Rag.

Today the windows rattle with Mother Nature's wrath. Literally. The icy wind is pounding at the panes, insisting to be let in, and frankly, the panes aren't doing nearly enough to keep it out.

The roads are slick with ice, the dangerous kind, the kind you can't see until it's too late.

It's days like this that I surmise that ankles are ridiculous things. Why should the smallest part of your leg bear all the weight and flex? So much is expected of these dainty creatures. On a day like today, they cry to themselves, implore the feet to stay the hell indoors. It's dangerous out there for an ankle.

I haven't taken a major spill yet this year, which means I'm due.

A klutz on a good day, winter tends to throw hazards by the dozens in my way. It's inevitable that I will fall, especially since I refuse to wear "appropriate" footwear. If I'm going to take a tumble, you bet it will be in my black patent leather heels. The ER doctor might be cute, and snow boots have never turned anyone on.

Now that the butt-bruises have faded, I can look back on my winter falls with fondness. A couple of years ago I took an Olympic-sized fall when we were stopped on the side of the road and I was scraping the windshield from the freezing rain that was stubbornly building up. Huge flakes of snow were blinding me, the snow banks were nearly hip-deep, and I don't remember what caused my feet to shoot out from under me, but suddenly I was rolling downhill into a soggy ditch. A few years before that, I was scurrying across the pedestrian crossing in front of Tabaret Hall at my University. I got safely across only to find a sneaky patch of ice that led to my undoing. That was the winter I decided to start wearing underwear again, or at the very least, longer skirts.

I know what's coming. I just don't know when, or how spectacular. It could be wrist-shattering, or tailbone-swelling, or black-eye inducing if I repeat an earlier performance of falling while holding a shovel.

This is an ugly time of year, and not just because of the potential injuries. The skin gets dry and scaly, and though my day looks like this: shea butter, shea butter, shea never seems to keep the dryness totally at bay. And the wind chaps your lips, unfairly so, because it's a real bitch to apply lip balm while wearing mittens. Mismatched mittens, at that. In October, we've all got mittens that match our scarves and toques. But mittens are like socks. They disappear not in pairs, but one at a time, leaving a lonely single behind. By the end of January if we're wearing one green nylon ski glove and one pink and grey fuzzy mitten, we're counting ourselves lucky, because at least we're still (relatively) warm. Our winter footwear is scarred with salt stains and our coats have been marred with ski-lift tickets and dribbles of drive-thru Tim Hortons. Our hands bear calluses from shovelling, our noses are running, and our bodies are pasty white (while often our faces are golden brown, except around the eyes, where ski goggles have induced the inverse-raccoon effect), and we're all carrying that extra bit of fat that just screams EXTRA BOWL OF STEW!

And that's just what we look like outdoors. Inside, we're all running around in our underwear. Obviously, the walk from the car to the front door means your pants are dragging in the 6 inches of snow that have fallen since the last time you shovelled (about half an hour ago, it seems), and so you throw your pants in the dryer to stave off influenza, or whatever it was that your mother always warned you about, and you put your mittens out to dry on the heater (and pray they don't catch fire), and then in your panties, you mop up the puddles that your boots have made, and you throw your jacket on the floor of the closet because that's where it's going to end up anyways seeing how no hanger has been designed to hold the heaviness that is a Canadian winter coat. Then you try to put your scarf away, but you discover that the last 8 feet or so got caught in the door. The car door. Because you know what? A scarf has to be long up here in the great white north. It has to be long enough to wrap around your forehead, your cheeks, and then around your neck several times, and then end up criss-crossed over your chest under your coat so the whole thing doesn't unravel at the first gust of wind. The crime rate could theoretically sky-rocket during the winter months because scarves are a perfect disguise. You can't recognize your own mother under all that scarfage, even if you hand-knitted her scarf yourself. But crime rates don't jump at all, because nothing is tempting enough to risk freezing your balls off.

January is nearly over with, and we're praying that it will take winter along with it. But it won't. February is going to hit us hard because we just haven't suffered enough yet. Sorry, but it's true. January was mild. Oh, it was always well below freezing, and we kept impressive amounts of snow on the ground, and down our backs, and over our groaning roofs, and god yes, piled high in our driveways.

But did our basement flood yet? (barely)
Did ice snap the power lines? (not since December)
Was a state of emergency declared? (not in 2008)
Did they close the roads and tell people to stay in their homes? (just the once this month)

Winter is not over yet. In fact, I fear the worst is yet to come.
But you know, we're resilient people. We've got boardgames in the closet, flashlight batteries in the kitchen drawer, and a mean chili recipe that will warm the coldest of souls. And truth be told, there's also an old fashioned toboggan that's all greased up and ready to go careening down the steepest, most ice-slicked hill, and while you can't see much around the folds in my scarf, you'll probably detect at least a hint of winter gleam in my eye.

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