Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.23.07
Stanstead, Quebec


In praise of snow

My brother Andrew and I used to make the best snow forts. He's an artist so he would invest considerable energy in designing, shaping, smoothing, adding detail. I'm the writer so I would concentrate on procrastinating and making smart-ass remarks.

I can still picture our ultimate snow fort: it had actual ice chairs and tables, you could stand up in it, and, if memory serves, there may actually have been a rec room with a pool table and bar.

At any rate, it was the coolest thing for about two days before some neighbor kids wrecked it. Damn neighbor kids…

I thought of that fort this past Sunday as I tunneled into our driveway pile with Abby. The snow was still loosely packed from the recent accumulation so it was easy for us to dig down to the icy floor of the snow fort that had been there before the previous week's thaw. It was like building on ancient civilizations, if ancient civilizations were constructed by 11-year-olds.

Soon we had a cozy hollowed-out shell facing the lawn, with a tunnel leading to the driveway and a small skylight. It wasn't up to my brother's caliber but Abby liked it.

The dog was certainly impressed, running all around, barking, biting at pant legs, kind of like me on my fortieth birthday.

I had to do a few things to enjoy the experience. One, suppress all midlife-onset claustrophobia. Two, ignore the mother voice in my head warning about collapsing piles and passing snowploughs. And three, compel the dog to stop trying to chew off my hand.

I crawled into our snow shell and lay on my back. All sound was muffled in that way that only snow does. I stared at the structure over my head made up of a conglomeration of fragile snowflakes - snowflakes being held together by other snowflakes. I'm no engineer but that just doesn't seem like sound construction to me. Certainly, that whole sticking-bricks-together-with-bricks construction theory didn't last long.

Lying there I thought, "This is marvelous and improbable." Then I thought, "My bum's getting wet."

I read somewhere that we're starting to devalue many things, mainly because almost everything is so accessible anytime, anywhere. You want strawberries in mid-winter? Done! "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in May? Download it now.

But snow like the snow we had this past weekend can't be ordered and you can't get it in June.

Monday morning was madness as usual in our house. Deb was off to work early so I was without the van to whisk the youngest two over to school. And we were late as usual.

"Get your snowpants on," I hollered. "We're going cross-country."

By this I meant we were going through the backyard and across the field behind the house. The snow was up to my knees, which meant slow-going. It meant no-going for Abby.

"Come on, I'll carry you." I lifted her and her Barbie backpack into my arms and, with my own backpack on, trudged through the snow.

As I grunted and panted through the snow, it was easy to imagine we were escaping Nazis or delivering supplies of crucial medicine to an isolated Alaskan village or fleeing from hungry Andes plane crash survivors.

The snow in the empty field was untouched. The morning sun bounced off the whiteness.

"Wow," said Abby, "look at it sprinkle."

"You mean sparkle," I corrected. But I like "sprinkle." The snow was like confectioner's sugar. I wished that we had time to stop and admire it. I also wished that my breathing would eventually return to normal.

Even by the end of the afternoon Monday the snow had lost its luster. By now it's quickly melting away to reveal previous layers of greys, browns and (ick) yellows. Soon it will be gone. We're lucky to have had it and we're going to miss it.

Nah, not really, but it sure was pretty.