Winter’s Passing

While many of the local folks are huffing out a big sigh of relief at the thought of warmer weather and snow melt, I feel a huge sense of loss.

I love winter, and everything that is entailed in living in a cold climate. Granted, it has been a busy few months, with visitors, snow sports and home chores, and I do feel grateful for some time to relax and reflect on this past season. However, along with the loss of routine, the cessation of winter brings on a nervous hesitation about what comes next. Change is in the air. Our world is ripe with possibilities … should we ignore the rain, chase the snow and head to the mountains for a last ski-hurrah? Rip off and replace the front porch? Get out the canoes and bicycles? Get out the taxes? Gods forbid – go to town??  … Suddenly, so many choices. Many of them influenced by March madness – A.K.A. cabin fever. Which along with getting high on too much maple syrup leads to a vacation in another way … but sorry, I digress.

No matter how distracted,  I know every season has it’s merits, and besides, the comforting reality is that in six months my world will narrow to a cozy white womb once more. 

Tempering all this emotional and physical disruption brought on by the ending of winter is my general awareness that society does not like to be affected by seasonal climates, and prefers to dumb us all down to a common denominator of the same generic physical activities and social strata. Since when did activities such as skiing and skating become outside the norm?  Since multi-national insurance companies decided so, is perhaps the answer. And Ontario’s winter cities, although few and far between, are not identified in the media for their differences, and applauded as winter destinations, even though cities in the province of Québec have been a success in this field.

Local reporters in the media take every variable of our ordinary weather as a disturbance to personal comfort, a shrieking chance to warn us all of the horrible risks of venturing out the door. On world-wide media, when our community is impacted by winter weather, the public face that we present to the world is negative, reactive and embarrassing. “Power out!” “Freezing in the Dark!” “Ice Storm!” “Whiteouts!” “Road Closure!” The public and highly exaggerated threat to the continuation of all necessary social services! ….Oh MY, how terrifying!

No wonder we northerners are regarded with pity when we travel anywhere south. It’s all in the way we are presented as a society; as needing to be kept safely inside, needing to take Vitamin D, needing to escape the dark and cold!

The provincial and regional government has a mandate to support and promote the tourism assets of Algoma. With the assistance and leadership of many positive advocates and business owners within the tourism sector, acclaim and awareness of what our region has on offer for outdoor activities is slowly being recognised. However, the City of Sault Ste. Marie fails miserably to support and acknowledge seasonal resources and established outdoor activities for its occupants. Even hockey is an indoor sport in this city! Recently the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Christian Provenzano, questioned the Economic Development Corporation, (a public NGO which supports economic diversification projects) about their partnership purchase of Searchmont Resort, which lies just outside the jurisdictional boundary of Sault Ste. Marie. Mr. Provenzano said that the E.D.C. should not have the approval for that venture from the city council. He also went on to make several very disparaging remarks about the village of Searchmont as well.

Such a partnership project should be supported and sought out, not questioned.  Attitudes such as this make our city fail in their intent to be a healthy society. Designating geophysical boundaries of city interests and attributes, ignoring outlying regions and refusing to acknowledge the value of the outdoor activities they offer to the city, such as park use, skiing and snowboarding, keeps this city from competing on the map as a world-class destination. It teaches our youth to be insular and cliché about what should interest and support them. Worse, our citizens and in particular, those children suffer poor health and limited resources for learning how to enjoy a full and active life in a location that has a variable and wide-changing climate.

Learning to ski is not an elitist sport, it is the privilege of every child that lives in a winter landscape. It is a necessity. Children should know that living in a winter city allows for enriching opportunities and activities that set us apart in advantage over more southerly cities.

All these things I ponder today as I watch the snow melt away, and I see the gradual erosion of an individuals’ own experience of place being replaced with indoor climate control and second-hand screen stories.  If there is such a thing as the collective unconscious, perhaps this also has effect on climate change. The more we present a hateful and frightened attitude towards winter, perhaps the less winter we will have to enjoy. And all those negative attitudes, held by insulting and insular city officials, and reactive weather forecasters, just works to make people feel they are apart from the environment, and at odds with the world we inhabit.

Our loss (of enjoyment and experience). Our collective sadness (at denying our culture). Our failure (to enjoy what our environment makes available for us).

…maybe I do need a little Vitamin D after all.



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