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The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThe day is white on white, with the low sun well hidden behind thick white clouds. No shadows precede me or follow me as I tromp steadily across the crusty snow.

My wide track intersects with fox prints, so neat and clean. What can foxes find to eat in this frozen landscape? They know more about this land than I do. Two crows sit on an apple tree, picking at shrunken brown apples. As I approach, they raise loud voices in brief protest, and fly away. I salute their spirit and energy and their great survival skills. They must be young.

I was young not long ago, born, in fact, in February. My mother was taken to the hospital some miles distant, in a horse-drawn box sleigh. By box, I mean an enclosed box on runners, with a door, a tiny coal-burning stove and a bench inside for my mother to sit on, and a window in front for my father to peer out of while holding the reins. In family photos my father is wearing a black fur hat with flaps. Both my parents wear fur coats, for warmth, not for show. This was Saskatchewan in the 1950s. I find it amazing that my refined mother and my educated father would choose to move to such a remote, cold, part of Canada. Oh, it was cold on the Prairies of my youth. Rubber overshoes never kept our feet warm, and woolen mittens were either soggy, or frozen stiff. Still, we were outside all the time, shrieking and rolling in vast oceans of snow.

That was the way winters were then, and it was the same everywhere. On Prince Edward Island, the old photos show snow so deep that tunnels had to be dug for the trains. Horses found the way home through snowstorms by sixth sense.  Children left for school through upstairs windows because doors were snowed shut. Ice froze in kettles overnight. Mothers sat up by the stove at night until the fire was well and truly out, for fear of flue fires. And what about flue fires, those loud unwelcome snaps in the night, with children rustled out of warm beds, sparks fling out of the chimney, general pandemonium, and a sense of pure and unadulterated fear gripping everyone by the throat. Hard times.

Still, we’re nostalgic for winters “the way they used to be,” now that our winters are so changeable, and snow and cold are sandwiched between wet and warm. But what’s so bad about this winter anyway? It’s been easy on the firewood, and we’ve only had to have our lane cleaned twice. I love these long evenings filled with conversation, cribbage, crokinole, music, jigsaw puzzles, good books, movies, concerts, bookmaking workshops, drawing classes. Oh my word, we’re rich.

Some of the folks in the Cove are off to Jamaica, and Tobago. I’m happy for them, but I’ll stay here, contented. These white winter days suit me just fine.

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