First Snow

I had a plan for the first snow.

I am, in my own Canadian way, deeply patriotic. I love my country. At the very core of my being, there is a part of me that is all things Canadian. This is a strange thing for a Canadian to say. We are, as a general rule, quiet about our great love for this strange and wonderful land we call home. If you ask us what we love about our country, we will give you intangible answers. Thoughts, impressions, playful, wayward words. We will not share facts or figures, rather our intractable and resolute ideas of what makes a country. And when you tell us that these things do not make a country, we will shrug and tell you that dreams and memories and love are not neatly described. They must be learned and memorized.

We will tell you of the wonder of the Northern Lights over Slave Lake. We will speak of lights flashing and dancing in the sky above us, the night so clear and cold that it takes our very breath away. We will tell you of woollen scarves around our faces, breathing the smell of wet wool, with just our eyes peeking out. We will tell you of laughing with glee and joy at a light show older than time itself, and far grander than we. We will tell you that it is hard to clap with your hands in mittens, but that is no reason not to try.

We will tell you of winter nights that are so still and cold, and the snow falling like a heavy blanket, of so much snow, that your hair is covered with a heavy white hood in the time it takes you to walk home from your best friend's house, just down the block. We will tell you that snow crunches under your feet when it is very cold and you can hear it for miles. We will tell you of the sharp smell of winter and the dusky smell of wood fires, smells that stay in your heart and can be called back at a moments notice. We will stop speaking and retreat into memory, thinking of of the smoke from a fire going straight into the air, and the the sharpness of cold air on your face, and the way it stings it's way into your lungs.

We will tell you of silence on Christmas Eve, with snow falling, and the clouds so heavy and close that they surround you, that you can reach up and feel the heaviness and dewiness and mistiness in one grasp. We will tell you how Christmas lights in the country seem to glow for miles, and they light up the space between the air molecules, and they call you home.

We will tell you of other Christmas Eve's where the sky was so full of stars and the air was so clear and clean that it seemed that you could reach every star. Where the milky way was a coverlet, hiding the secrets of heaven from us, and if we only looked hard enough, we could see the face of God smiling back at us.

And I had a plan. To introduce my child to the wonder that is Canada. To wrap him up in warm clothes, and wake him up to take him out in the first snow. To bundle him up well, and hold him in the air, and twirl around with him in my outstretched arms, and show him this country that I love. To begin the process of teaching him to stop and stare, to appreciate. To love, deeply.

It was the first snow tonight, my son. And you are not here, and it does not snow in heaven and I am wondering how the Northern Lights must look like from above.