Winter Blues - Creative Non-Fiction
by Clara Spencer
My senses were so heightened that I couldn't even speak. She wouldn't have heard me anyways. My main thought was; "when will she look back?". Crystalized snow pelted my face like it was a windshield. My balance was perfect. I would not budge. That county road was our icy playground on Sundays. Well, some Sundays since Woodwards was now open Sundays. Mom was the deli lady there.
The trike handled the terrain and its driver. That day Mom was part Desire Wilson and part Cruella de Ville. I trusted she was in control, yet she drove her Topaz completely differently throughout the streets of Red Deer. With her winter play clothes on and her toque stretching to the sky, she was the mastermind of this day. This day she tucked away her Avon catalogues and hit the open road with me in tow.
She still hasn't looked back. I wasn't crying yet; I just gripped the thin yellow rope like a bronc rider. I even let my snot sit on my upper lip; that’s commitment. I was statuesque on that light birch toy from Canadian Tire. The wood was thin except for the outlining edges which my thighs painfully pressed into. It was trike vs. toboggan, and I questioned if she even knew I was still her passenger.
Gracefully the sun bowed below the tops of naked poplars and then the mercury also slipped. That late afternoon chill felt instant. Then it happened. She hit the ditch. That’s when she looked back; proud as a peacock. She must have thought she achieved at making my childhood extraordinary. Physical discomfort now trumped everything. Finally, she exited the ditch, and we took a big corner, toboggan swinging wide and slowing down. My grip painfully loosened. We came to a loud snow-crunching stop. Mom energetically hopped off and silence returned to the prairies and my brain. I regrouped. I dislodged the clunky Kamik's and rolled off of the toboggan. Then it got noisy again. Mom's laughter rang out all over Central Alberta. Then it was my turn to look back. It all came together when I saw the window through the bottom of the toboggan; a jagged hole the size of a softball. Sears snowpants were good but no match for thorny rosebushes or gravel roads.
Gratefully, we were back in her Topaz. Mom eased her way downtown, then south on Gaetz. She pulled into DQ. Eating out for no good reason never happened. I didn’t ask questions and dined quietly in that booth, slippery snowpants and all. I loved redeeming those DQ tokens for ice cream. I savored my dessert on the road as we methodically made our way past Kin Canyon and turned into Sunnybrook, my familiar territory.
Today, the Collicut stands proud where those days became my memories. I tell my kids; “this used to be farmland” but they’ll never really understand. Those days were extraordinary.
Winter “Blues” Story
by Vonda Peterson
Alberta’s skies in winter have no scars or flaws - no dimension meets the eye. No texture and no imperfections can be detected. Do I paint it cerulean or cobalt, or is ultramarine the right choice?
The old red barn may need some paint.I mix a puddle of burnt sienna and add a generous brush full of quinacridone burnt scarlet to it. How I love that colour.
The majestic pine standing behind the fence, promises to forever don its’ deep blue-green.
The cattle are nuzzling through the freshly fallen snow.The snow’s shadows can be many reflected colours. I use various puddles of Payne’s Gray and leave the naked paper to reveal the highlights.
The air smells fresh and clean, and there’s not a whisper of a breeze.Last year’s straw sticks out of the snow.
Cast shadows stretch themselves out from the 4 o’clock sun.
There are children on the hill, one in blue, another in yellow.I imagine their squeals of delight as they slide down on the toboggan beneath my brush.
Bales of hay stacked neatly along the fence, each bale waiting its turn to be useful.
I pencil in an old truck that has seen better days, all but buried amongst the fallen poplar.
And then the angels in the snow, evidence of children’s play are revealed near the farmhouse door.
My mind’s eye now rests upon another scene just north, on the driveway.There it is, interrupting this tranquil scene.I’ll paint it indigo - the new Tesla…
by Bill Franz
I wasn’t going to write this story. Not because I don’t like winter, but because I do. Forty below is bit much, but I do enjoy the crisp blue-sky days with the sun shining brightly, especially after a fresh snowfall the evening before. We are blessed with many days like that in Central Alberta.
This winter we haven’t had much snow and the temperatures have been mild, thanks to El Niño. It’s been rather nice, actually. But I also enjoy winter sports, in particular, cross-country skiing at Heritage Ranch or out at River Bend, and snowshoeing in the woods near my home. So far I haven’t done much skiing, and snowshoeing is more fun on fluffy white snow than the crusty stuff.
This winter has been described by a senior climatologist as “very gloomy, doomy, morose and depressing.” See CBC’s January 5, 2024 article entitled “January has a reputation as the bleakest month. Does the grey weather make it worse?” This fits better for the West Coast (the wet coast) and for Toronto, Ontario, but “Calgary had the most rain in December since the 1880s.”
In the same article, “according to the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), about 60 per cent of people living in Canada report feeling the “winter blues”….” This has more to do with the lack of sunlight rather than rain, but of course it’s not usually sunny when it’s raining. This time of year, the days are short and the nights are long.
There are some solutions that can help. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a bright light therapy machine can help with your mood. I used to use one when I went to work and came home in the dark. These days, some fresh air and exercise outside in the great outdoors (especially when it’s sunny), helps keep me on an even keel. Take me outside!
This morning I needed to shovel snow off the sidewalk and driveway after last night’s light snowfall. I was pleasantly surprised to see my neighbour with his granddaughter shovelling the city sidewalk for me. There are snow angels everywhere in Red Deer. I am also thankful for the sunlight flooding our home today.
There’s a lot to be sad about these days, from troubling world events, in particular, war. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet, with inflation having taken a big bite out of their personal finances. The climate is warming also.
If you can today, take the time to enjoy some fresh air outside. Get out in the sunshine if you can. Perhaps get out for a walk this evening, if you can’t get out in the daylight. It’s looking like it will be a clear night, great for observing the heavens. I understand next week is supposed to be colder, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some more snow. We do need it.