Notes From a Snowstorm

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©. K Martinko

It's only mid-November and winter has arrived with a vengeance. How do I stay sane?

Yesterday morning I woke up to a winter wonderland. The snow was piled partway up the door and the thermostat read -10 Celsius. (That's 14 Fahrenheit for you Americans.) This is typical weather for January, but not the middle of November. Nevertheless, we sprang into action. I sent my son outside to shovel the neighbor's walkway, since he just had knee surgery, but my usually-enthusiastic child returned, wailing that there was far too much snow. I didn't believe him and told him to be resilient. "Get out there, you can do it."

A few minutes later, however, I realized how serious it was. The snowbanks (thanks to the plow) were as high as my waist at the roadside. It was up to my knees in other areas. There was no way I could shovel the neighbor's and my own house in the fifteen minutes I had before school started. So out came the snowblower – a good month earlier than I think I've ever used it.

It's easy to feel defeated and discouraged by such an onslaught of extreme weather so early in the season; but then I looked at my kids, who were frolicking in the snow with pure joy. They were ecstatic, throwing snowballs, pulling each other on the GT racer sled, tossing shovelfuls of snow into the air and running under it, making snow thrones in the banks. And I wondered, how do they enjoy this weather so much more than I do? What's the difference?

Then it dawned on me: they're well-dressed! They're essentially impervious to the snow from head to toe, insulated with snow pants, lined boots (that I dry out every evening), coats with zippers that go their chins and snug waistbands, mittens, and hats. I was wearing dressy boots and a slouchy hat with zero insulating ability. If adults dressed like kids do, they wouldn't complain half so much about the cold.

me snow blowing

© K Martinko

They're also active outside. Kids are always moving around, which keeps their body temperature up. Adults tend to stand around and feel sorry for themselves in the cold, but if we jogged, jumped, walked, and climbed with a fraction of the kids' energy, we'd be fine.

Nell Frizzell delves into this question of how to enjoy winter more in an article for the Guardian. She writes, "The greatest hurdle to winter living is state of mind," and quizzes several individuals on how they survive outside all day long throughout winter (albeit a milder British one than my wild Canadian one).

Their responses range from "you can only get wet once" and embracing the sense of badassery that comes from withstanding hardcore weather, to staying active: "If you can keep moving for a quarter of an hour, you can overcome whatever the weather is doing around you." This has the added benefit of giving you an endorphin rush and boosting mental health, which in turn improves resilience to cold.

Some of the advice was more practical: wear base layers, thermal leggings, a hat, thick pants, waterproof boots. Keep a pair of hand warmers in your pocket. Use a heavy moisturizing cream on your skin at night to prevent uncomfortable chapping and splitting. I'd add (ironically), don't overdress because being sweaty and hot is almost as bad as being shivery and cold.

The kids have it figured out. We adults just need to remember how to be more like them, and then winter won't feel nearly as endless. (Ask me again in five months' time when I'm still snowblowing the driveway...)