Banff is undoubtedly, a winter wonderland; The snow covered mountains, the ice rink by the high school, the ski hills, the winter sports stores.
The Prairies are not.
In the Prairies, people leave. They are called snowbirds, our migrating population, mostly retired, who head south to Arizona, Nevada, Texas and California for the winter. The snow came early though, not many have left yet, but they are hurrying to get their affairs in order. For those who must remain, this early snow predicts a long, cold winter. The newspapers have tracked road traffic collisions since the snow began on Thursday. Traffic news on the radio lasts three times as long, and the general point is, “it’s snowing, please drive slowly and carefully”. Unlike in Ireland, there is no talk of only driving if it is “essential”. The radio does not announce school closures. The buses may not run, but the school remains open. Heads shake, frowns grow, nerves tighten and ladies refer to the “other, nasty 4 letter word”.
Unlike last year, when I sauntered to work with flakes falling gently on my face, crunching in my snow boots through 2 feet of white fresh snow, I must drive. The roads are in good condition- I always check with the AMA website before leaving. I see white, however, and I naturally slow. I want a bumper sticker for my car to inform motorists, “we don’t get snow like this in Ireland”. The wonder is the car parks. Somehow, cars are parked, in line, in order, even though we cannot see the grid lines. There are 2 rows of parked trucks and cars where there is meant to be 2, nobody has parked awkwardly, unsure of where the box actually begins and ends. I simply aligned mine with the ones around me, and chalked it up to the Canadian sense of order.
I miss the Irish sense of wanton abandon; remember 2 Christmases ago? Drivers were so delighted to have made it through ungritted roads to Letterkenny, that when they got to the car park, they simply stopped in a spot to let go of the steering wheel and relax those twisted nerves. You knew the world was out of sync; the car parks lost all sense of organisation. There was an eerie sense of quiet upon the town, without the usual hustle and bustle of weekend shoppers, let alone the festive madness there should have been for that time of the year. Not here, no. Lethbridge is as busy as any Saturday, just with mittens and boots and pick-up trucks with boxes full of snow. Stores have footprints of water throughout the aisles, and that’s ok.
The snow began 2 weeks ago, and Fountain Tire (yes, I know, I’d have spelt it TYRE too) were inundated, putting on the winter tyres. Somehow I was prepared: My father will be delighted, and surprised. I’d needed new tyres so it made sense to make them the winter kind. Are they working? Well, I am not sure if it is the tyres, the lack of any alternate choice or the general confidence of drivers that surround me, but you just get on the road and keep it between the ditches, preferably, the white line and the yellow line. The centre line is yellow here, not white. I often wondered why and I think the snow answered it- a yellow line is more visible in the snow. The white line making the side of the road, doesn’t matter as much in this weather. I go a little slower (sorry, drivers behind- see bumper sticker) when a semi (a big, big lorry) or the snow plough is coming towards me. They shoot snow on my windshield and I am temporarily blind.
I am grateful that I can get to work, or go to the city, but I think longingly on that December in Ireland. Everything stopped. Children waited for Highland Radio to name their school in the list of closures. I watched out my window at the snow fall, something rare and marvellous. I put on a fire and cuddled in.