Recalling a winter that was

Call this winter? This ain?t no winter. Back when I was young, now them there were some real winters. Aaaahhhh! I sound just like Great Uncle Arnie; sitting on the back porch in his rocker, slamming the bottom of his cane into the weathered boards on the deck. If I had an Uncle Arnie. Which I don?t.

In a bid to lose weight and get in shape, I?ve been walking around a circular path in the forest behind our house. Walking it every day, I have noticed something amazing. – not a drop in size; not even a drop in weight – but that here it is, already March, and never, at any point, have I required snowshoes for my daily bush tromp. Most days I don?t even need a toque.

Why, I remember winters so cold that the propane gelled in the lines. I recall snowfalls that left the white stuff heaped about in four foot drifts for months on end. Sometimes a crust would form on the snow top and depending on how the latest weight loss campaign was going, I?d be able to pussy foot over the top of the crust for 10 or 20 steps, before hitting a soft spot and crashing up to my armpits in snow fluff.

The majority of those pussyfoot, crust crashing, expeditions occurred in March. The month that I make my annual pilgrimage to my greenhouse to sniff the frozen dirt and cry winter weary tears into my green plastic watering can. You see, I have a passion for gardening; particularly for growing giant pumpkins. I have never managed to grow one bigger than a house cat, but this doesn?t keep me from obsessing about it. Every spring I start one of Howard Dill?s pumpkins in a pot on the window sill. Every summer I water and pollinate. Every fall I bring the blackened lump into the house and commence a solid day or two of ranting and crying over my failure. Darcy has long since passed from supportive to exasperated. He expunges a silly logic along the lines of – ?If you haven?t been able to grow a giant pumpkin after 23 years of trying, give up.? Quitter.

This year, as soon as my seed order arrived, I quickly popped three pumpkin seeds into a peat pot and cleverly labelled it ?Pepper? before burying the damning evidence of the package in the bottom of the recycling bin. What?s that honey? There?s a pumpkin growing in the pepper?s peat pot? Damn those incompetent seed companies. It sure looks healthy though . . . Shame to just throw it out. Hee, hee, hee.

All this reminiscing makes one real winter spring to mind, when I set out on my annual greenhouse march. That year the snow was so deep that I finally gave up on my floundering and falling through the chest deep drifts and resorted to laying on my stomach and propelling myself across the surface in the general direction of the greenhouse door like a psychotic emperor penguin. There I was, the greenhouse firmly fixed in my migratory path, flopping across the snow, when I heard a vehicle coming. Not good. Not good at all. I have the misfortune of living in a community where people stop to help when they think a fellow neighbour is in trouble. I flopped faster, managing to arrive feet up at the door, mere seconds, before the dreaded vehicle came into view.

Puffing white clouds of exertion, I kicked the snow away from the door and squeezed my way inside. Ah, frozen, black, dirt; the hopeful stack of plant pots; the patient green watering can. It was wonderful.

Until the frost bite set in. As I rolled my way back towards the house, I could see the green tip of that year?s pumpkin plant anxiously watching my progress from its perch on the window sill.

My seed egg! My baby! What if the fire had gone out? What if my plant had got chilled? Why didn?t I hand it over to Darcy for safe keeping, the way the emperor penguins do? Sure, having a pumpkin placed on his feet penguin-style might have been a recipe for temptation, but still . . . I flopped faster.

Maybe emperor penguins aren?t so dumb. Or maybe I am. Or maybe both.