Well, according to Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil we will be getting six more weeks of winter.
Our beloved little rodent friends have let us know this in a time-honoured tradition, which we affectionately refer to as Groundhog Day. Although, I have to say it has only felt like winter in the way of cold, icy winds, but I’ve been asking, where is our snow? I had really been looking forward to snowball fights, sleigh rides and tobogganing with my family. Nonetheless, we do apparently have a great deal of snow still on its way, with some already here, so the winter festivities have only been postponed temporarily.
Unless some of you have been in hibernation (which is where I’d like to be right now) most of North America knows we have been experiencing a “polar vortex” this winter. It seems that the polar vortex is at it again, driving powerful winds across the western half of Canada and lowering our temperatures to what feels like beyond-sub-zero levels. “Polar vortex” is quite fun to say — it seems rather Star Trek-esque to me and it is not a term I had ever heard before this frigid, icy weather had been given its 15 min. of fame — however, it has always been here and will always be here, every winter. The polar vortex is a winter weather pattern that circles the Arctic, spinning west to east, trapping cold air in the high latitudes. Researchers named the polar vortex in the 1950s, just a fun scientific fact I thought I’d share with you.
“You can’t get too much winter in the winter,” wrote the suitably named Robert Frost in his poem titled “Snow.” I think that Canadians might beg to differ at this point in time.
And nothing gets Canadians talking like a polar vortex — but we just love our small talk surrounding the weather, don’t we? It seems every conversation in the Ull’us coffee room is always about the weather. If I had a nickel for every time I was asked, "Cold enough for you?” I could be on the next flight to a warmer climate down south, covered in sunblock and basking in the glorious equatorial warmth instead of layering up in 14 million pieces of clothing to keep me warm. But I’m not complaining. We’ve had worse winters I’m sure, just none that I can recall in my almost 40 years.
Recently, I had an eye-opening conversation with one of our revered Elders, my great uncle Bernard Dick, whom we lovingly refer to as “Tipta.” I sat down and had a coffee with him and, of course, the weather was a main topic of conversation as I asked him if he was warm enough, noticing that he’d only had a collared dress shirt and a denim jacket on to protect him from the wind. His reply certainly educated and astounded me, “I’m Lil’wat. I’m tough and we’ve had colder winters.”
I sure do love my great uncle for giving me a new perspective on how I’ve been handling this bitter cold. He told me that when he was young, the winters were a lot colder than this and that they’d travelled by canoe in the icy rivers no matter what the temperature was. They had to trap, ice fish and go deer hunting to survive. They camped for days when they went trapping for squirrels, weasels and marmots in order to earn a living. They lived in log cabins with no insulation, or drywall, and they didn’t seem to mind because they were tough enough.