So, in 2008, I did what any rational person would do: I decided to visit some friends in Toronto. Canada. In February. Might as well go straight to the source, I thought.
My plane landed in the middle of a just-shaken snow globe: thick white flakes danced chaotically around the airstrip, dusting everything with a thin layer of icy stars, blindingly bright. Outside, my breath caught from the sharp cold in the air. Every exhale, a little ghost.
I spent that trip as a winter tourist, indulging in every cold weather trope I could think of: we laid in the crisp new snow and stretched our arms heavenward, making angels on the ground. We drank hot chocolate as flowery flakes drifted down, melting on the lids of our cups.
We went for long walks bundled in scarves and thick coats, the world muffled save for the sounds of our laughter and booted feet crunching through the frozen top layer of snow.
Then, the real revelation: the squirrels! I took approximately 500 pictures of the little bushy-tailed wonders cavorting around the wintry wonderland.
We visited Niagara Falls and it had turned to ice. The whole thing -- ice! Lady Winter, with her flair for the theatrical, had stilled one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world.
We indulged in comfort foods -- thick savory soups and filling meals that carried warmth to each frozen fingertip. We stared at the stars that appeared suddenly, and early, in the late afternoon dusk, revealed by the sharp cold clarity of the air. We watched the snow veil the world around us until we were the only spots of color.
It was all exactly as I’d dreamed.
I returned home somehow even more enchanted with the season. And even if it’s warm where I am right now, I can still conjure the feeling of the spiky cold on my skin; I can still invoke the stillness of the snow-covered world.
Regardless of the temperature, the winter season still moves ahead and brings with it the drama of another year ending. The theatrics also deliver a moment of reprieve: a chance to slow down, and be patient. To proceed thoughtfully and with purpose. To choose your steps with care, and walk steady.
And much like winter, life is full of beauty and harshness -- it’s rare to have one without the other. So we take this time to reflect on both, and celebrate the joy that a life with experience brings. To remember that every moment is both temporal and eternal, that every breath is full of ghosts, and that in the beauty of the fresh-fallen snow, we are all angels.
In loving memory of Lujaien, my snow angel. [1986—2018]