40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology (the 3rd review!)

“Wake me if it snows. Always. If it is snowing and you are up and I am sleeping, wake me please. Bring me back from sleep. Because when it snows, something is protected. Loneliness is evened out. Heartache is patted down. The patterns of life are quietly disrupted. And the world is made new.”

Here’s the thing: I hate winter.  I find very few redeemable things about a season where I have to layer tights (boys will not understand this, but tights are itchy enough as it is, let alone with two layers), where I have to find a balance between warm boots that are not UGGs and fashionable leather ones meant for +5, where I have to blow on a furnace to get it to work, where I have to layer in so many blankets that my body feels trapped and heavy.  I don’t really partake in winter activities – I might go skating once a year (what else are you supposed to do for dates in Edmonton’s winter?), and I ski once or twice a year as well (though there are many other places in the world I could live and still go skiing in less miserable temperatures).  I don’t make snow angels.  I don’t go sledding.  I don’t run up Victoria Park road in -30 wearing seventeen layers of wicking shirts and a balaclava.

But maybe I should.

The writers in this anthology have found something magical about winter in this city that they admire, and in some cases, miss.  I don’t see the magic in snowflakes when I’m brushing them off my car at 7 in the morning in the freezing cold, or when the snow has engulfed my car to the point it won’t budge out of its snowy prison without the hands of others.  I don’t see the magic in the painting of black ice upon roadways, where cars spin out of control into ditches or other cars, sometimes to inescapable injuries, and sometimes to their deaths.  But I ask myself every year why I live in this city when I could be anywhere else, and yet, do nothing about it.

Lately, I’ve started to think that living in a place where it’s not uncommon to hit 40 below gives you strength.  We laugh at the other cities that become a state of emergency at 5 inches of snow, that dig out parkas at 0 degrees, that shut down schools and businesses at a little cold and snow.  In Edmonton, it’s against public school board laws to shut a school down for a snow day, because there will always be that one student that still shows up and they must be accommodated. We drive to work in the worst of snowstorms, and the graters and sanding trucks never bother to rush. We walk outside and see the river valley painted with frost even in the worst of temperatures. We do all of this because we, as Edmontonians used to the cold, can and will survive yet another winter.

There’s winter in my bones, and in the bones of these talented writers, both established and emerging (Jason Lee Norman has picked a great selection of work for this Edmonton anthology).  And you can’t shake a place or season that’s always been a part of you.  So let’s make snow angels, drink whiskey in cold weather, have love affairs in the wintertime, and steal kisses in the snow.

Books read so far: 3


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