Island Snow

Look I'm updating my blog!

Nothing all kinds of awesome. It's just that I wrote this for the CBC Canada Writes challenge for True Winter Stories. And I didn't get shortlisted (booo!!!). So I figure I'll share it with you lot.

Here you go. It's not completely true, but it's that first winter in Newfoundland as I remember it.

Island Snow

Winter followed on the heels of our moving van. We drove across the island, shadowed by it, two or three weeks behind. By the time the last box was unpacked or placed in the attic, it whispered around our new-to-us house with whisps of wind and casual frosty dustings.

As we settled into our new neighbourhood, the cold settled into the earth. Never before had I seen grass crack under the weight of its own iciness. Or watched the sweat bead into frozen teardrops on my father’s face.

Painting "Frozen Rocks" by Vadim Vaskovsky.
To see more of his Newfoundland scenes visit http://www.vaskovsky.com/art-island.html

The cold preceded the snow by a good two weeks. We struggled into sweaters, frozen in waiting. New friends laughed at our talk of ice-skating and sledding. They looked at our ankle-high boots, then at each other, secretive eyebrows raised.

It started at night. It was still coming in the morning. Between the frost-rimed windows and the whitened sky, it was hard to tell where one dimension ended and the other began. Everything was blurred and dulled –softened by the thud of snow.

It continued for two days straight.

On the third day, we rose to the glare of a sun-glared field of snow, ice crystals reflecting harsh light into our morning windows.

It crunched beneath our feet, bruised our knuckles inside our woolen mitts.

Gone was the barbed wire-fence. Gone, the trickly river behind us. Gone, all the toys and tools we’d carelessly dropped.

It reached halfway to the roof of our shed. It seemed like walls pressing in on us, the gradual pressure transforming us into something harder, more finely formed.

The cold broke. Inside our multi-layered, multi-piece snowsuits, we sweltered. Two pairs of mitts and wool socks inside boots seemed excessive; we snuck behind the shed and stripped down to sweater and snowpants, soggy woolen mittens dangling from our sleeves.

My eldest brother discovered that the distance between the top of the snowdrift and the roof of the shed was the exact length of his body. It didn’t take us long to scrabble up his back, over his shoulders and onto the slippery tarred roof. It took even less time to discover that once our bodies had broken through the jagged edges of ice-crust a few times, the snow beneath was soft and wet.

We jumped, climbed and jumped again all afternoon. Carefully avoiding the barbed wire fence beneath and our mother’s eyes at the window, we crafted a replacement for ice-skating and sledding that embraced the abundance of snow.
Eventually the holes our bodies slammed into the snow became deeper. Wet slush sucked at our boots as we climbed up to the new ground level. The layers we had abandoned beckoned us with their warmth and dryness.

Back behind the shed we forced wet, swollen, woolen sweater-clad arms back into coats, sank into the snow, and sucked the dangling blobs of ice from the long hairs of our mitts.

Later, the holes we had created became tunnels. A world was built beneath the snow’s surface.