were losing our precious winter

The snow came last week. It wasn't a blatant invasion like some parts of the country experienced, nor was it a thrust into the deep freeze.

The snow came last week. It wasn’t a blatant invasion like some parts of the country experienced, nor was it a thrust into the deep freeze. Instead, it arrived quietly in the night and when the flicker of the firelight showed its presence on the deck, it was like bunting, a sort of showy ribbon hung along the rails and edges. There hasn’t been much. My treks to the wood shed can still be made in running shoes.

There are jays, flickers and nuthatches about. Along with the chickadees they make a fine display as they forage in the front yard. All around us is grey. The sky retains a hardy slate theme, as though it wants to erupt in snow at any moment and the lake is a mute, sullen sort of grey as though impatient for the sheer white to come. The land is well prepared for the onslaught that’s sure to arrive soon.

When I was small, we lived in what’s called the Snowbelt of Southwestern Ontario. That’s an area that stretches from the edge of Lake Huron at Kincardine, north to Cape Croker and Tobermory and then southward through the mixed farm lands of Walkerton, Mount Forest, Clinton and onward to Kitchener-Waterloo. Every year, sometime around the second week of November, people began to hunker in. No matter how fine it appeared to be weather-wise, everyone knew the snow was coming.

Did it ever. That was 40 years ago and I still remember being amazed at the sheer size of the flakes as they twirled down. They were like huge articulated Frisbees. On windless days it was as though the sky were shaking out great pillows and the feathery flakes that made things near white-out conditions were stunning to watch.

Later, the winds picked up and the quality of the snow changed. It became dry pellets that stung the skin and forced your head down. You could hear the whistle of them as they surged passed your ears. This was the kind of snow that drifted and formed dunes of white across the fields. That always amazed me. The way you would wake up one morning and the entire front 40 was a snowy Sahara with snaking dunes every which way across it.

Sometimes, when the wind was right, it snowed sideways. The north wind blew with such force that the snow came at you parallel to the ground. You couldn’t walk anywhere with an accumulation of snow in the creases of your clothing and if you were aimed into the teeth of that wind, you could only discern the outline of things. It snowed like that for days sometimes and the rural buses wouldn’t run. We were glad for that but less enthused about being housebound for the duration of the storm.

Those were winters. There never seemed to be a waiting period then. Maybe it was because the farmers never tried to second guess things. They just went about their seasonal chores and routines, fully expecting the weather they’d come to recognize as ‘normal’ to drift in as predictably as cows for the evening milking.

I remember once, looking out the back window and seeing the biggest jackrabbit I had ever seen bound across the top of a three-metre dune of snow. Backlit by the moon and the grand purple sky, that rabbit was all shadow and when he disappeared suddenly, it struck me that the land is a magic show and I’d best pay strict attention. I never forgot that.

Yes, the winters of my boyhood were real winters. These days, on the cusp of Christmas, there’s little snow about and when I hike up into the back country with the dog, I can still use my summer hikers. Sure, the chill has sent the bears packing and the winter birds are here but that grandiloquent dump of snow that proclaims winter’s arrival seems still a long way off – if it ever makes it at all.

They didn’t make a deal in Copenhagen. They didn’t put their minds together and come up with a pact that had teeth that would see carbon emissions cut drastically right now. They didn’t tell corporations and big business that we’re all responsible for the life of the planet and they need to get in line right now. Instead, there’s a polite and toothless agreement that allows the haves and their cronies to siphon clean air, water and a common healthy future from the have-nots.

Maybe none of them recall winters like they used to be. I’m sure Stephen Harper doesn’t. They were glorious. Cold and glorious. The depth of snow would ensure ground water for crops and the cycle of things was steady. We’ve altered that, we humans. Forever. But we deserved better from our leaders than a name on a useless deal. We needed change now.

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway and the author of Keeper’n Me. He won the Canadian Author’s Award for Dream Wheels and his new

novel, Ragged Company, is

out from Doubleday.

He can be reached at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Inside the courtroom in Whitehorse, Chief Electoral Officer Max Harvey, Vuntut Gwitchin returning officer Renee Charlie and Supreme Court Judge Suzanne Duncan open the box containing the names of the tied candidates. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Annie Blake elected as MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin after name draw

“I’m still feeling shocked that my name was drawn, I feel overwhelmed.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 case confirmed in rural Yukon community

An exposure notification has been issued for Andrea’s Restaurant in Watson Lake

Food trucks gather on Steele Street between Front and Second for the annual Street Eats Festival in Whitehorse on August 12, 2019. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News file)
May 1 could mark the start of the 2021 food truck season

Lottery for downtown sites set for April 28

Wyatt's World

Wyatt’s World for April 16, 2021.… Continue reading

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is taking on the first all-woman expedition to Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team among mountaineers heading to Kluane National Park

One team will be exploring Mt. Logan while a second all-woman team aims for Mt. Lucania summit

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Whitehorse International Airport in Whitehorse on May 6, 2020.
NAV CANADA suspends review for Whitehorse airport traffic control

NAV CANADA announced on April 15 that it is no longer considering… Continue reading

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Most Read