Postcard #45, From Canmore, Alberta: Snow
We knew it was coming. We arrived before it did and Nick made a dash for groceries. By the time he was back, it had begun. Fine, barely visible flakes falling quickly. A thin wash of grey on the mountains. It was a relief from the strain of packing, travel, planning, news. It was the news – predicted, anticipated.
By late afternoon the road, the mountains, even the air had become white. It was coming straight down, nothing fancy, no gusts or lazy beautiful starry shapes, just a steady fall. It had business to take care of.
The sky was grey, like fine ash, even before the early dark. The snow kept falling, becoming whiter, settling on the trees, and the paths, and the rooftops. When night fell we turned off all the lights in the house so we could see into it. We sat by candlelight as it became heavier. It silenced everything. We went to sleep.
In the night I got up. There was action outside the windows. A wind had come, and the snow was whirling around the corners of the house and rising upward by the back door. The trees were looking burdened and the corners of everything had softened, curving, sculpting the railings and making humps over the dimmed streetlights. The ground had risen up, soft as quilts.
Before dawn, I was awake again. It was still snowing. We kept thinking it had stopped but no when you looked closely at the dark wood, you could see that it was still coming.
The street awoke. I found all my winter gear, the mitts and toque and gaiters and snow pants, and ski jacket and trundled out into it. Up to my knees in the driveway. Car stuck and men sprinting with snow shovels. Gleeful next door neighbor with his jeep-like vehicle itching to pull cars out of the ditch. Dogs leaping at the end of their leashes. Heads peeking out half-open doors. Snowblowers choking and giving up. Isn’t it fabulous? Never seen it like this! Even for a mountain town, this is extraordinary.
One of those huge two-story plows going by on the main road moving great waves of it off to the side.
And the downfall stops. The mountains begin to appear once again. Nick takes the shovel to the driveway. I go out to the back deck. It is over my kneecaps. I wade in and lift the shovel. I push it into the snow and try to move it. Not going anywhere. It’s heavy. It comes away in slabs. It’s not powder, not the light fluff skiers love. This is strong stuff, statement snow. It is artistic, it has made cornices and heaps. It has turned the fir needles into great paws and claws. It has filled the gaps between human settlement and nature. I open the back door and see that it has come over the sill, trying to get into the house. Everything is white.
As I shovel, pushing it off the deck, filling the hollows under the trees, the sky brightens, and the sun throws a pale gold light into the snow clouds. The erasure, the cleansing, the cold of it, the light it brings, all of that is renewal.
I wish you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m going out to lie in it and make snow angels.