Today is the first real snow fall of the year. And though I am trapped in my tower by the wind and the white flakes that pelt harder on the skin than rain ever could, I watch it all from my window, my awe and my excitement left neutral by my dread.

Being born and raised in Canada, snow is something that I have experience with. I know it personally, better even than I know my own neighbours. I know that when I was a child, it was a thrilling thing. It was that family friend or uncle who swung by rarely, but always came bearing the greatest gifts. It came with the gift of snowmen that never quite turned out the way that I expected them to – their smiles always stilted and stuff, their white, lumpy heads bare of a top hat, and no carrot could ever be wasted in use of a nose. It came with the gift of snow forts, dug into the side of a great, big snow hill like a fox’s den, one that I could crawl my small body into to hide from disapproving adult eyes, with their cautions about getting stuck in there. Best of all, though, it came with the gift of icy paths down the sides of hills. If you had snow pants on, and if the teachers weren’t looking, you could sit on these paths and slide all the way down, the world whirling around you so fast that you were flying. The pain brought on by red cheeks and numb toes could never compare with such thrill.

The older I got, however, the fewer gifts winter felt compelled to bring me. I outgrew my snow pants, making it difficult to slide down those hills without my butt getting uncomfortably wet and cold, and suddenly there was just no time to make lumpy snowmen with stiff smiles. But that didn’t mean that winter left me deprived completely.

Instead of gifts of thrill, winter supplied me with gifts of beauty – at first, anyway. I began to notice the breath-taking way that the gathered snow caught the moonlight and burst into sparkles, like a thousand gems that could never be possessed. They could only be looked at, only be appreciated before someone’s heavy boot came and stomped away its shine. I noticed the Christmas lights that shone optimistically through the dry, chapped air, leading me ever forward with the promise that, even when my body hurt and I couldn’t breathe despite the cold, there was still so much light and beauty in the world so long as you took the time to see it. I noticed the way that colours seemed so much more vibrant when they were contrasted against a world of white – the way that the evergreen stood out bright, the way that shades of red seemed clearer and more innocent on the pure snow.

But every single year, winter gives me these gifts and then overstays its welcome. It stays even when the snow has been much too trodden on to be white anymore – instead, it is grey, and it infects everything around it with its ugly, dispassionate greyness. The grey seeps into the evergreen, muting its brightness. The grey seeps into the sky, stealing its colour away for good. It makes everything even, uninteresting, unfeeling. It makes me long for colour – for the green of the grass and the blue of the sky. For something, anything, that I can look at.

Every year, winter stays so long that the greyness begins to seep into me. I can feel it like a heavy muck on my soul, stealing something away from me. I want to shake it free, to leave it behind, but I can’t. I’m a prisoner to its greyness. When I’m depressed, then it sinks me lower, and when I’m not, it simply steals away my joy. The beauty and the lights and the sparkle is gone, and all that is left in its place is the cold and the dryness and the pain in my body.

So would I ever abandon the beauty to the avoid the greyness? The two things are one in the same – I can’t have one without the other, so is it worth it? After all, there are other kinds of beauty, and I’m sure to find them if I look. Sometimes, pain is important, but I haven’t decided yet if this one is.

It doesn’t matter now though; the pain is coming whether I want it to or not. So, for now, I just sit here by my window and wait for the gifts that winter will bring me this year.

Published by Ciara Hall