CACTUSES AND IGLOO

It?s March 26th and I?m sitting in an airport shuttle outside a hotel in Dayton, Ohio (different column, don?t ask). The trees are still winter skeletons, but there?s very little snow and the grass is already green. While we wait for the last passenger, I look out the window and I see the most amazing sight. A surge of pure joy pulses through me.?A robin!? I shriek, pointing out the window.

Everyone avoids eye contact with the crazy lady from Canada, who apparently has never seen a bird before. How to explain what a robin represents up in my ankle of the woods? They are affirmation of spring?s green birth. The reassurance that winter is dead. In their red breasts we see the promise of the summer sun.

?We won?t have any robins for a few more weeks,? I tell my seat mate?s pony tail. ?I?m from Canada.?She gives up trying to appear invisible, and replies, ?I?m from Arizona. Arizona!

I try not to drool. At this point drooling would not improve my image. Well, drooling wouldn?t do much to improve my image at any point, but especially not now. ?Ah, Lizards, cactus and sand.? I tell her, with a happy sigh.She looks annoyed. ?We have ski resorts in Arizona.?

?You ski down sand?? I conjure up an image of tanned people in shorts, swishing down a hill of sand. I?m surprised I haven?t thought of it before. Why not? Sand would be a great medium to ski in. For one thing, you can count on sand being there from one week to the next. You don?t have to wait for it to fall from the sky and then worry about it melting. Fantastic. But what is Arizona saying? It sounds like she is saying snow. ?We have snow. In fact we had three feet of it when I left.?

I look at her doubtfully. ?White, fluffy, substance?? I ask, just to be sure we?re talking about the same thing. Maybe snow means something else in Arizona. ?Really cold? Melts if you hold it in your hand?? ?Yes. We?re more than lizards, sand and cactuses you know.?

She?s really ticked. And there?s something familiar about it that I can?t quite put my finger on.?Sorry,? I offer. Although why I?m apologizing for thinking a place was snow-free is beyond me. Where I come from, being snow-free is a good thing. ?That?s okay. You?re not the first person to think that way about Arizona.? The last passenger shows up and we swing out onto the highway and head for the airport.

After we?ve gone a couple miles, Arizona, who maybe is feeling badly about being so prickly, turns to me and says, ?I wouldn?t mind visiting Canada sometime.?I smile politely to show how friendly Canadians are. ?Huskies, igloos and snow,? she tells me. ?Oh! And moose and maple syrup. It all sounds like such an adventure, but cold! Does the snow ever completely melt???Of course it melts. We have summer. We don?t live in igloos.?

?Because the snow melts?? ?No.Because we have houses. We?re more than huskies, igloos and snow, you know.?

Geesh. Can you believe some people?

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country.

Visit her online at www.shannon-mckinnon.com