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  • Monique Sliedrecht

In-between Time and Snowy Memories

Updated: Dec 28, 2021


It is the start of that 'in-between time' - those days between Christmas and New Year's Eve. I wonder if there is a special word for this time...? Maybe we need to think of one.


I am amazed at how quickly these weeks go by, and how one day blends into the other during the holidays. It feels a bit like former lockdowns actually!


I'm glad the wind has subsided here in the north, though I would love some of that snow they have been talking about on the weather channel! We'll see what the next days bring.


Yesterday I got this text image from my sister who lives in northern British Columbia, in Canada:



And this is her back garden at the moment:





It is as though the chairs are waiting patiently and hopefully for summer, but will have to resort to hibernating with the bears for now.

I remember snowy days like that in Ontario where I grew up - when the accumulation of snow was so high we could not get out of the house! There was one snowstorm in particular that comes to mind. On opening the curtains in the morning after 2 or 3 days of heavy snowfall, all we could see was white plastered against the glass, with just a band of clear space at the top where the snow had not reached and where we could observe the quiet world beyond. On opening the front door, we came face to face with a thick snowy wall that was the height of my father.

It made for very cozy times indoors, the fire lit in the wood stove and us in our pjs, all terribly excited. Before long we put on our snowsuits, snow boots, thick socks, hats and mittens, arming ourselves with shovels to slowly carve our way out and give some sense to the driveway and pathways. It was a full few hours of work at least!

Neighbours did the same and we called out to each other with cheery hellos and a wave of our mittened hands. The whole event seemed to bring the neighbourhood together and for a little while our world became smaller. As we started to feel the cold in our toes and fingers, we would come back in, stomping our boots and shaking the snow off of ourselves, hanging our suits and hats near the fire, our cheeks all rosy with the cold. We flapped our frozen bare hands about to get some of the blood flowing again, rubbing them in front of the stove to bring some feeling back to our fingertips. The effort of putting on our ‘snow armour’ and then take it off again was something else! Regardless, we made plans to go right back out in a few hours to continue the construction of snow forts and igloos we had started, once our clothing had dried.

But first, some hot chocolate….


***

There is a myth that the Inuit have 100 words for snow. While they do have a wider vocabulary associated with snow, it is not quite so vast as that.


No matter the type of term it uses to refer to a particular type of snow or ice, Inuktitut has a far superior ability to distinguish between them than most languages. A lexicon of sea ice terminology in Nunavik (Appendix A of the collective work Siku: Knowing Our Ice, 2010) includes no fewer than 93 different words. These include general applictions such as siku, but also terms as specialised as qautsaulittuq, ice that breaks after its strength has been tested with a harpoon; kiviniq, a depression in shore ice caused by the weight of the water that passed over and accumulated on its surface during the tide; and iniruvik, ice that cracked because of tide changes and that the cold weather refroze. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Language and culture are so tied to our environments. In Scotland, the word 'dreich' is well suited to the wet, soggy days that occur quite often.



Right now, the sun is shining here in the far north, and I've made a resolution to get outside and walk more. Who says we have to wait till the new year to carry out our resolutions? So I better put on my Scottish gear and get going!






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