Tag Archives: snow

Learning to Appreciate Snow Again

As I sit down to write this piece, all is calm, all is bright. Miss Ivy, the “guardian cat”, is snoring on the wing chair beside me while I sip my morning coffee. Just outside my window is the first major snowfall of this season.

What a great way to spend a weekend snow day. I am very fortunate indeed for this simple pleasure.

I look out my window and think to myself how pretty the winter wonderland is. Then I stop myself and say “Whoa! What happened to that guy who used to ‘hate’ winter?”

The answer is that things have changed quite a bit.

For so many years, I have equated snowfalls with stress, the fear of the unknown, and having to dig deeply for an extra dose patience.

I don’t know why in Ottawa the show must go on, even in inclement weather, but only in rare and very extreme weather conditions was work ever “cancelled”.

It always brings a smile to my face to see news reports from other cities that shut down when they had one or two inches of snow on the ground. “That would never happen here”, I always think to myself as one to two inches on the ground is just an average winter day in Ottawa. But it didn’t mean it was an easy day.

Back when I was taking the city bus to school or to work, a snowy day meant a longer commute time in an overheated bus, while wearing a winter coat, sweating like a pig, wishing I could take another shower by the time I got to my destination. It also meant the crap shoot of whether the bus will be late or if it will show up at all, meaning that extra layers of clothes were needed to stand outside waiting, to protect from the elements.

It also meant the risk of being late for an important commitment, which is excruciating for someone who prides himself on his punctuality.

But all one can do it make the best of it, get some good music going on the headphones, breathe deeply and just relax.

When I was driving to work (when my office relocated), it meant leaving the house earlier because there would inevitably be an accident (or two, or three…) on the main artery leading to the office. It meant a longer commute time, dealing with the unknown variable of drivers who don’t seemingly drive for the weather conditions.

But all one can do it make the best of it, get some good music going on the car’s music system (before hitting the road), breathe deeply and just relax.

And don’t get me started on freezing rain, which seems to bring out equal parts fearlessness and foolishness on the part of certain drivers.

Then, when I got home from my work day, after a long commute, it usually meant shoveling, until my back decided I was getting too old for that and I had to hire a service to take care of that for me.

Back when we used to travel for business, I always cringed when my manager would suggest I was needed in another city for meetings or to deliver training over the winter months. It was always a source of stress and apprehension as to whether the weather would favour traveling or whether I’d be spending the day in an airport due to cancelled or rescheduled flights, watching the plane’s wings get de-iced multiple times before we took off, worrying about meeting the ambitious schedule of commitments at my destination.

For those reasons, to me, winter was synonymous with struggle, and trying to accept that I had no control over the situation.

Being forced to work from home during Covid-19, took that struggle out of the equation. I didn’t have to leave any earlier to commute to my home office. I didn’t have to shovel a path to my home office. I didn’t have to wear extra layers. I didn’t have to yell from the back of an overcrowded overheated bus, to please turn off the heat.

Now, on a snow day, I can look out the window and finally start to admire the delicate, lacy beauty of the snow gently falling and clinging to the trees of our cute little country property, a little like the closing scene of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

This is not likely to change over the course of this winter, as signs are pointing to a continuing to work from home for a while longer.

With my retirement planned for June, by the time we get to next winter, commuting will be completely off the table. To me, retirement will be about developing my writing projects, catching up on my reading, catching up on the streaming shows I missed over the years and perfecting my recipe for gluten-free pie crust.

I won’t need to travel far for any of that, and when I do need to step out, I can plan it (or reschedule it) around the weather forecast.

This is not to say that if we get another winter like 2008, the year when the snowbanks were taller than me, or a winter that seems to drag on and on well into April or May, my appreciation for winter might come with limits.

But to be able to look out the window and enjoy the beauty, instead of feeling a sense of dread from having to drive in winter road conditions, is definitely an improvement and a joy in itself.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Worst Possible Time for a Car Repair

You can imagine my excitement when I got the call from the auto body shop to tell me that my car was ready.

When I went to pick it up, I let out a huge sigh of relief to see my vehicle restored to its original beauty. The body shop did a magnificent job. The car dent I had been living with for six months was finally erased.

What irks me to this day is that I was nowhere near the car when the dent happened, and the person who was responsible never stepped forward to identify themselves by leaving a note (*head shake in disbelief*).

Regular readers know that I am not a “car person” to begin with, and it’s not like I own a luxury car by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a cute, practical, compact car, which I have grown to love, but it’s my car.

It is sad to think that people do not have more regard for other people’s property or are too afraid of the repercussions to own up to their mistakes (or a combination of both) (*head shake in annoyance*). Continue reading

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How Country Living Changed My Outlook on Weather

One of the biggest ironies about moving to the country has been the surprising shift in the way I look at weather forecasts.

Back when I lived in the city, I was not a fan of rain nor snow. The reason was pretty simple: commuting.

After our work team was relocated a few years ago, I had accepted that taking the car to this new location would always be faster and more efficient than dealing with buses or our emerging light rail system. After being a bus commuter for 35 years, I felt justified in taking that decision and in having done my part for the environment.

I occasionally questioned that wisdom when a major reconstruction project on a major artery kept adding time to my commute, but I still persisted.

But when the highway was narrowed not only from the construction itself but from vehicles breaking down in the construction zone like it was the Bermuda Triangle, my patience started to wear thin every day that lanes would be blocked, adding to the commute time.

But when you incorporate precipitation into the mix, whether rain, snow, or freezing rain, it became impossible to predict just how long it would take to get to work. Let’s just say that I restrained myself from drinking too much coffee just in case I’d be stuck in the car on the highway (between off-ramps) for lengthy periods.

Back then, whenever I looked ahead to a forecast with several successive days of rain, I would already start the week with a bit of a frown.

But now living in the country, in the Covid-19 era, where I have been working from home and haven’t had to commute in almost five months, I have had good time to recuperate from idiot drivers, construction, precipitation and stressful commutes. Continue reading

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50 Signs That You Are Sick of Winter

1 – There is enough grit in your entry hall to fill a sandbox, even when you vacuum it each week.
2 – You would like to have a few words with the groundhog.
3 – You run your fingers through the cat’s litter box, close your eyes, and dream you are on a sandy beach.
4 – You visit your summer clothes at the back of the closet.
5 – You put on sunscreen just to enjoy its aroma.
6 – In the car, you crank up the temperature and turn on the heated seats, just to remember what it was like to feel a little sweaty.
7 – Your default TV channel is the Sunset Channel.
8 – When you go to restaurants, you order drinks with umbrellas, and pretend you are on vacation.
9 – You create more playlists of songs with steel drums.
10 – When you check the weather app, you don’t tap on “weather warnings” anymore. You know that it is just more bad news.
11 – You have Googled “vitamin D dosage” on more than one occasion.
12 – You get frustrated when stores put out the lawn and garden supplies, when you are still looking for winter supplies. Continue reading

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Farewell, My Shovel

It was 7:30 a.m. last Friday morning when Ivy the Wonder Cat and I were playing chess on the coffee table or at least Ivy’s version of chess, knocking the chess pieces off the table and meowing with joy.

Then I heard it!

You’d think it was the sound of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” with the speed at which I flew to the window, but no. It was the snow plow… The snow plow I hired to clear my driveway, making its very first visit!

For those who might not be familiar with an Ottawa winter, let’s just put things into perspective. While different sources offer different statistics, I’d say that on average, Ottawa receives about 200 cm (roughly 78 inches) of snow through the fall, winter and spring months.

Of course it doesn’t fall at once. Sometimes it falls as light fluffy flakes, sometimes it comes with ice pellets and sometimes it is wet and heavy. As an added bonus, after the plow (or plough, if you prefer) comes to clear the street, there is always a heavy (and sometimes mountainous) snow bank at the end of the driveway that needs to be cleared as well.

Plus, when you have a winter like 2008 with more than 300 cm of snow, and all of the snowbanks start getting taller than you, where do you put the snow?

For the longest time, I thought that hiring a plowing service might have been frivolous or extravagant, especially since my driveway is barely over one car length. But I had to accept the sad reality that the degenerating disc in my back will continue to degenerate, and that the shoveling is probably not helping it in the long run.

I tried to convince myself that it was good exercise and that it was one of the joys (and responsibilities) of home ownership. But 17 winters later, my positive spin on shoveling is spiraling downward. I’m over it. Continue reading

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Top 10 Ways I Prepare for a Canadian Winter

With the fall season well underway and the official start to winter just on the horizon, I often feel like a squirrel gathering nuts, which is not too far from the truth, actually.

For those who might not be familiar with Ottawa, winter can offer its share of merciless days in terms of bad weather conditions. As a result, roads and driving conditions can get pretty treacherous.

If we hit a weather pattern of several days of heavy snow or freezing rain (or both), I tend to go out only if I really have to. And on those days when I have to go to work, I stick to the essentials: a commute to the office and back, and that’s it. I won’t do errands on the way home.

It’s just a question of safety… well… that and the fear of getting stuck in a parking lot where a plow hasn’t arrived to remove the snow which continues to pile up.

For that reason, I tend to stock up on certain items to ensure I have a decent supply on hand, and to not stress out if my errand schedule goes topsy-turvy when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter get cranky.

Here they are, my top 10 errands in preparation for winter:

10. Flu shot

Getting a flu shot is not so much a weather dependent preparation, it is just a seasonal one for which I feel a need to make time for it, to avoid the flu, avoid the line-ups and maintain good health through the winter season.

9. Snow tires

Local garages are usually run off their feet at this time of year as many drivers book an appointment to have winter tires installed on their vehicles. Given how bad the weather can get, I couldn’t imagine driving without them anymore.

8. Kitty litter Continue reading

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Did Nature Photography Get Me to Enjoy Winter?

In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.

For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.

When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)

But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!

While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years. Continue reading

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The First Runs of the Season

I have always admired those runners who are able to look out the window at the most adverse weather conditions and still be able to pick out the perfect layers of clothing, lace up their shoes and go for a run with a smile on their face. They are my heroes!

I will admit that I tried it for a couple of winters, and when properly dressed for it, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, on a sunny, crisp winter day, a nice run can definitely raise the spirits after long stretches of grey winter skies.

But when Mother Nature delivers long stretches of snowy day after snowy day, and it has been weeks since I have even seen a sidewalk, it is all too easy for my discipline to be hiding on the couch under a pillow and blankie, thumb stuck on the remote, leaving a trail of sodium-reduced potato chip crumbs wherever it goes.

However, when March rolls around, it is no exaggeration to say that I can’t wait to get out of the house. The excitement and desire to return to the running trails builds with each passing day.

But when it comes to those first runs of the season, I have learned that managing one’s expectations is incredibly important.

After being away from it for several months, I tend to over-romanticize the running experience, accentuating the positive, musing about beautiful spring runs on flat, bare sidewalks, the fresh spring air, the sun shining, and the birds cheering me on. Continue reading

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Freezing Rain: That Scary Time When a Sheet of Ice Flew Toward My Car

iciclesThe freezing rain of a few days prior had turned the entire city into skating rink. Old Man Winter must have been really proud with himself as no outdoor surface was immune.

As the city began to thaw out from the storm, my normally calm drive home was punctuated by a moment of terror, as a sheet of ice had dislodged from the roof of an SUV speeding along at 80 kilometres per hour and flew straight up into the air like a pancake being masterfully flipped by its chef.

But what goes up must come down, as the wind carried the SUV roof shaped sheet of ice a little to the north and above my lane of traffic. Gravity then started taking over.
“Oh crap… the sheet of ice is headed this way,” I thought to myself.

I am always impressed by how television and movies are able to depict those moments in life when time stands still and things suddenly go in slow motion. This was one of those moments. As I could see the sheet of ice headed for me and my windshield, so many thoughts flew through my head at lightning speed:

“Oh crap, what do I do now?”
“Crap… this isn’t how I’m supposed to die, is it?”
“No wonder I’m not a fan of winter.”
“This isn’t how I’m supposed to die, is it?”
“I’ve still got a million stories to write. This would be tragic.” Continue reading

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How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter

I admit it… I like the great indoors and my creature comforts. When the weather outside is frightful, especially in winter, I can’t think of anything better than staying inside, cozying up with a pillow and a blanket on the couch, listening to great music, reading a good book, watching a fun movie or even getting a few crazy story ideas committed to paper. To me that’s heaven on a cold, blustery winter day… or pretty much any winter day, actually.

However, it seems that through my renewed love of photography and my commitment to keeping the Instagram account freshly updated, something changed. After the first snowfall of the season here in Ottawa, I suddenly found myself meandering outdoors, chasing after the ever elusive nature shots. How did that happen?

Let’s be perfectly clear. I might not be inclined to spend more time outdoors than I have to on a blustery, stormy day. That would be pure silliness. That is when I will invoke the aforementioned “creature comforts” clause.

But after the storm has passed and the pathways have been cleared, it might be a different story. I am definitely warming up to the idea of getting out on a crisp, sunny day, and wandering out in the winter wonderland to take shots of the birds that didn’t fly south or the squirrels still running around gathering food.
Squirrel

I admit, a fresh, clean blanket of snow can lend itself to a certain beauty and majesty not found in other seasons. When snow crystals glitter in the sunlight, it can have a magical effect. To capture it in a photo might be my “thrill of the hunt” challenge this coming winter. Continue reading

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