were getting a bit bushed

You’re right, I haven’t told you much about the winter here because I was hoping you would come and see it for yourself, as you promised you would when you had that somewhat less than pleasurable...

Dear Uma:

You’re right, I haven’t told you much about the winter here because I was hoping you would come and see it for yourself, as you promised you would when you had that somewhat less than pleasurable summer visit.

I understand the birth of Marvel’s foal takes precedence over everything else — maybe next year.

Winter in Watson Lake is different than winter in many of the other Yukon communities; we get serious snow. By serious, I mean we get a lot of snow. And this year we have so much that everyone is running out of places to put it.

I began the winter by shovelling off the entire deck, but by now I am reduced to a narrow path to the door with the walls of snow up to my armpits. I have another tunnel out the back, just for the occasional change of scene. If we get much more snow my shovel will be about as useful as a milk bucket under a bull.

Actually, I enjoy it. But as someone less enthralled pointed out, it is easy to like winter when one doesn’t have to get up in the dark every morning, go out and start a vehicle, drive to a workplace and then drive home in the dark.

Good point, I conceded.

The snow leads to all manner of trouble among the populace. There are ongoing snow wars, some of which have been carrying on for years. Most of these are between individuals, particularly those with those little snow-plowing vehicles whose owners make money removing snow from various driveways and commercial lots.

There is one great story about an operator removing snow from the yard of a local business only to find, sometimes mere hours later, that a rival operator has pushed the snow from a neighbouring yard into a wall that denies access to the first fellow’s yard.

Then there are the town’s graders. These drivers do a really good job of keeping the streets passable; the main thoroughfares are almost always clear, even on weekends, and the residential streets cleared soon enough that no one suffers much inconvenience.

However, some drivers, in moving the snow from the streets, tend to leave too much in some driveways. At least too much for the folks who have to get from their driveway to the street. There are lots of tales of cars stuck, or hours of shovelling to clear humps from the driveway.

When I asked one victim why they didn’t go to the town office and complain, I was told that is not a good idea. Often a complaint will lead to the complainer’s driveway being made even more impassable.

These operators are sensitive to criticism, it seems.

Cee told me about one driver who made nine passes up and down her street — with all the blades up! Yukon-style joy riding? I suggested.

No, she replied, it was more likely Yukon-style passing the time till lunch. This is not a rare occurrence, I found, when I asked a few more people about it. One fellow told me there is an operator who spends a substantial amount of his workday either driving around with the blades up, or parked in a favourite spot. Well, it can’t be a very stimulating job, and generally speaking, there is admiration and appreciation for the efficiency of snow removal here.

There is a ski hill, as you know from Jason’s winter visit with us, and it is wonderful with snow, especially this year. I don’t ski, being healthily odynophobic, but I like to go there once in awhile and enjoy an excellent hamburger with fries while watching people in colourful clothes risk their necks for fun.

Curling is another winter sport that is popular, though not this year. The roof of the curling rink has been deemed unsafe and all games are cancelled.

Though I have not said it publicly due to the risk of getting my head on a pike outside the village gates, I can’t personally see this as a huge loss. I tried to watch a game last winter and found it about as engaging as watching paint dry.

There is an open-air curling event on Wye Lake that is historical in that it has gone on every winter for 26 years without regard to weather or conditions. One mild year, I am told, the curlers were ankle-deep in melted ice and had to resort to wearing garbage bags on their feet and legs. There are costumes, and hot toddies and great hilarity. Curling legends are

born and curling reputations destroyed. I am going to watch it this year, willing to see the game in a new light.

OK, there are sometimes several days in a row when I don’t leave the house because it is just too damned cold. No one said winter in the Yukon would be a tiptoe through the tulips.

Some days it is more like a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich.

And yeah, I do get a little stir-crazy. Once I thought I could understand what the refrigerator was saying. Luckily, Pete came home before I attempted a dialogue with it, though I remain convinced its name is Philip…..

The internet is a blessing during these times; I spent one afternoon looking at the work of an artist who lives in your area, Uma; he used the fetuses of guinea pigs to create glow-in-the-dark prints. Thinking of the abundance of darkness in our winter, I came close to ordering the whole series, stopping myself when I realized the cost of them would buy four tankfuls of propane. My new life is full of new priorities.

We can unplug the deep freeze. It lives on the back deck and the pennies saved go towards the massive cost of propane for the furnace and hot-water heater. We cringe at the sight of the truck that delivers propane coming down our street; a fill-up costs nearly $1,000, or eight prints of glow-in-the-dark guinea pig fetuses. Unlike friendlier climates, the high cost of living up here is not the cost of high living.

The hospital debate is still lending heat to the winter. Not that there is any debate about whether or not our hospital will come under the umbrella of the Yukon Hospital Corporation — it will. That would have been a debate, but it didn’t come up. Apparently a team of consultants did a survey here about the matter, though I have yet to come across anyone who participated. When I enquired as to whether or not those unknown respondents knew their participation involved the question of whether or not to change the standing of the hospital I was told “probably not”.

Ah, consultants. The Yukon government is inordinately fond of consultants, a profession whose motto must be: “If you are not a part of the solution, there is good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

Am I sounding a bit negative? Could be; it is one of those days when the time involved in donning the amount of clothing needed to venture outdoors is simply too daunting, especially on a post-dinner-party day when my head is feeling heavier than the rest of my body.

Give Marvel my best wishes and tell her I wish for her a speedy delivery.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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