in which winter is late

We still don't have snow in Edmonton, but Sherwood Park has a little.

Winter, which should have arrived a month ago, is nowhere, and though I bought my first proper parka in years, heavy as a homemade sleeping bag and expensive, oh man, with synthetic fur on the hood and everything, I don't need it.  

I miss winter, our familiar adversary. I miss the city-wide, province-wide, Canada-wide sense of commiseration and hilarity as we all try to go about our business in the thick of a blizzard. I miss the way we dig ourselves out heroically, and venture forth to school, the warehouse, the grocery store, swaddled up to our eyes. I miss the way mucus freezes to our mittens. I miss our unheated apartments on 99th St. I imagine I miss waiting, stoic as an ice-fisher, for the overheated bus, but I know I'm not imagining clearly. 

My friend Ashleigh has a twelve-minute scene in her movie of a woman struggling to get her two kids into snowsuits so they can walk to the video store.

Nothing to fight and brag about having fought. Without a well-defined external foe to make ourselves and our small warm homes glowing life-pods in the frozen waste, we're shiftless. We look for minor wars to wage. We wish for some injury or tragedy or close call to get a rise out of us, force us to see our lives as fragile and precious as they are.

We are too lucky, in so many ways, and we don't know how to deal with it. We have not evolved in peacetime. We are confused when things come too easily; we have built up whole religions and a national work ethic against the notion. 

My friend Joe Gurba once argued that Canadians are only comfortable when they believe they are braving the elements, perpetually breaching and taming the frontier. It's an illusion that we've ever truly done this, of course--most of us weren't the first people here, and now it is increasingly foolish it is to look at our limited natural resources and see an endless wilderness. But the feeling persists. 

Essentially, it's a problem with ego. When we look around and see nothing but ourselves and the work of our hands--our urban sprawl, our red tape, our books, our imperfect loves, our refineries, our endless possessions--it all seems small and sad. We need something bigger, more important and more powerful. (This is also where, for many people for as long as we've been around, God comes in.) We need something to define ourselves against.

Trump won't do, exactly, as an adversary, because Trump is a little bit in all of us. He compounds the ego's discomfort. He is not separate, he is no relief. Winter, though? Skin-freezing, brain-shrinking, toe-stinging cold? Frozen water pelting you from the sky? Snow that grows out of the ground and engulfs your car, your house, snow that has to be pushed back and dug through and removed before the roof collapses? What could be more ideal as a nemesis?