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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Winter is back

BY Sonny Orr Dec 1, 2022

Ahh the cold crisp air, the strong winds whipping your breath away, the frozen fingers trying to zip up that cranky zipper, the baseball cap flying through the air… you know what I’m talking about – winter is back. 

Talking about backs, my back is complaining now. After the last snowflake fell during the middle of the night, it was time to dig out and welcome the world with a frosty scream into the wild. Sadly, last year’s snow shovel had taken a beating and I’m in need of a new one that can take the daily strain of thousands of cubic metres of the white stuff and temperatures way below zero.

Then, it’s a clear path to the car, which doesn’t have a remote start, so I have to get fully dressed just to start it. The cold screams continue, oddly sounding like someone who stubbed their little toe and swearing in a multitude of foreign languages, when that clump of snow falls down an unprotected and exposed neck while entering my frigid vehicle. 

After a roar of a tiny motor that starts in any environment, I trudge back in to refill that cup of coffee and flip over the bacon. Wolfing down a hot breakfast and nursing frozen fingertips, it’s back to the car to drive the treacherous roads of the North. This morning it’s not too bad. I can see further than 100 metres and the road looks like it was cleared; time to drive across the street to work.

After another treacherous drive over freshly plowed piles of snow in the middle of the road, it’s time to find a parking spot that doesn’t look like it needs to be plowed within the next few minutes, so it’s safe to go indoors. A lot of foot stamping and coat shaking, and a tramping to the office, avoiding any wet spots on the floor, I finally plunk down safely in my office chair. Whew, a lot of work just to get to work.

The smell of coffee reawakens the corporate animal in me, and I act accordingly, calling everyone who needed to be called, emailing those I couldn’t. Hopefully, they are out of danger and warm inside their offices. Cooped up and nestled in, we work in unison, meeting virtually and quickly. Who needs the inconvenience of travel, when you got a hot cup of java and your comfy office chair and a trusty laptop. The meeting goes smoothly, no real technical difficulties. 

I remember the last time I dared go beyond my office, the days of being stranded and the hours of waiting for someone to cover your poor corporate soul’s need for face-to-face meetings and to make sure that your travel money is enough to cover a bite and a drink for the day. Yeah, it’s nice to travel, but when the weather doesn’t care, the flights don’t make it, the snow removers are overworked, and the power goes off for good measure and your worn-out hotel staff just can’t keep up with your constant demands, you know that the virtual world is a nice compromise.

So, I return to my already frozen vehicle to get a TV dinner from the freezer to heat in a microwave for my lunch hour, which quickly passes as it entails at least a half hour of getting in and out of these winter garments. Time is valuable when your stomach needs some TLC or at least a BLC burger to go. 

Some days I feel like I should just brown bag it and hopefully the family remembers what I look like in natural daylight and without a beard when I return home in the dark right after work. Some people claim that Canadians are a lucky lot, but I digress, that luck doesn’t mean much when it’s dark for half the year. It’s just sheer determination to get to your vehicle in the middle of a blockbuster snowstorm, one that never ends being replayed in the news repeatedly.

Ahhh, to be Hawaiian or someone like that, in the winter. If Santa could be so generous as to toss a flew plane tickets in the old worn-out stocking hanging next to the worn-out snow shovel. 

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.