The first great snowfall of the season was yesterday and I had some time today so I’d thought I’d take a walk through the neighbourhood to look at winter while it was still clean and fresh.
The weather report said it was minus twenty-five with the windchill so I decided that I needed my long johns. I dug them out of my dresser and realized I couldn’t remember buying them. It might have been fifteen or twenty years ago. I don’t ski or skate or toboggan and the most involved I’ve been with winter sports in the last thirty years has been shovelling my driveway. But as I approached my fiftieth birthday a few years ago, my wife thought it might be a good idea to invest in a snow-clearing service to lessen the chances of my impending heart attack.
I’d probably worn them fewer than ten times but as soon as I pulled them on I felt like an eight year old getting ready for the rink. I swear, it melted away forty years for a split second.
I bundled up and set out. A few blocks from my house I came to a park. It contained a community centre, a small library, forested walking paths, a dormant soccer field and a yet to be realized rink. The boards were up but it only contained snow. I hope it’s ready by Christmas for all the new skates.
I stopped into the library, mostly to warm up but also to look for an obscure book I didn’t expect to find. But rather than do a quick scan of their computer data base, I looked at a print out of the map of the Dewey Decimal System. Something I’d not thought about for thirty-five years. I couldn’t find the book. But I re-discovered the Dewey Decimal System.
It only takes a day after fresh snow to see the paths. The newly trodden dog paths, the footprints of squirrels and raccoons and the ruts of the strollers and care-givers. It should be a lesson to park designers. The tracks in fresh snow, within a day, will tell you where the paths should really go.
In a short time I had passed a Senior’s residence and a primary school. And I wondered about the folks, young and old, looking out the windows upon the new winter. Six-year olds looking with wonderment and excitement. Eighty-six year olds looking out with memories of wonderment and a tender sentimentality. All at the same fallen snow.
I walked a street and heard a down and out guy enthusiastically wish a prostitute a Merry Christmas. It warmed my heart.
I was walking against a very cold wind and I had to lean into it. Coming the other way on the sidewalk was a younger guy and he said to me, without stopping, It’s easier walking the other way. I smiled until I realized I now had Bob Seeger’s Against the Wind in my head for the next ten minutes. And we rarely get to choose whether we are walking with or against the wind.
I needed an ATM and as I was about to enter one, an older lady, about seventy-five or eighty, was right beside me. The sidewalk was a bit slick and it was one step up to the door. I reached out to her to hold her hand and help her up. In the most gracious and grateful voice, she thanked me like I was her favourite son. She said she had fallen recently and now was always afraid. I knew the feeling. She said I’d done my good deed for the day. I told her it was so easy I should do another ten.
As I headed home, I realized that I was only cold on my face and on my toes. Like I was coming off the rink. I wanted hot chocolate and my mum to rub my feet as the burn dissipated.
There was no mum and no hot chocolate.
When I got home, I shovelled the front step and driveway where the plow had missed. And before I headed in, I felt the urge to make a snow angel. Then I thought, well my pants will be all wet. Then I thought, who cares? Then I thought the front is covered in delicate perrenials and I might damage them if I lay back and start moving my legs and arms. So I didn’t. To my shame.
How much innocent joy have we lost from our childhoods because of awareness and inhibitions? Damned if I know but I intend to make a snow angel before the winter is through.
And I’ll be on the look out for our older friends who need an easy hand up to a place we take for granted.
And the Dewey Decimal System still sucks.