Anticipation, not denial, is the first step of winter

It’s followed by despair, sarcasm, and eventually, a lot more despair

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Photo Illustration By Taylor Shute

Photo Illustration By Taylor Shute

It’s that difficult time of year again, but come on people, we can get through this together. To better navigate our ordeal, it’s important that we take the time to review the challenge ahead. Here are the seven stages of Canadian winter:

1. Anticipation. As the long, hot summer surrenders to the first hint of an autumn breeze, many of us experience a small thrill: winter is on its way, bringing relief from the heat and promising the many splendours that accompany the most Canadian of seasons. We envision snow-flecked landscapes, ice-covered ponds and joyful Christmas choirs. Digging deep into the closet, we gaze fondly upon our parkas and mitts. We dream of frosty adventures ahead.

2. Despair. The first cruel winds of November cut through us and we pretty much want to fall down and die right there. Three days of hostile muttering ensue.

3. Sarcasm. A huge December snowfall—awesome! And maybe a little freezing rain in there because THAT WOULD BE PLEASANT. Wake up and there’s a metre of snow in the driveway—and hey, great, it’s the wet, slushy kind that weighs about a squillion pounds per shovelful and lays those of weak heart in their graves. Yay winter! Just when we finally get it cleared—literally, just as we finish clearing it away—the plow pushes a huge drift back in front of the driveway. Thanks for that, buddy! And for the record, that could have been anyone’s snow shovel that flew through the air and struck the window of the plow’s cab. We only ran away because we were in the mood for some exercise.

4. Rationalization. Typically this stage is triggered by an enjoyable day spent outdoors. We are imbued with the belief that not only can we survive winter, we can learn to love it. We vow to plan more outings. We settle in for hot chocolate by the fireplace. We look out the window into the deep black of a winter’s night and we are content . . .

5. Swearing. . . . until we realize it’s only 4:35 p.m. Sweet mother of @!%*#. It’s pitch black when we go to work! It’s pitch black when we come home from work! There’s more daylight in Das Boot. HUMANS WEREN’T MEANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS, BY GOD! Our stylish leather boots are salt-stained. The legs of our pants are salt-stained. Our will to live is salt-stained, and that’s not even possible. At work, the guy two cubicles over is wearing the same wool sweater for the third time this week. It smells like a wet ferret. And now we smell like a wet ferret. Morning comes and the ice on our windshield is thick, so thick, and we take our scraper and we just hammer on it and hammer on it until we crumble to the driveway, spent and weeping. Later, at Starbucks, we overhear some cheerful idiot saying the Inuit have dozens of ways of saying “snow.” We tell him we’ve got hundreds of ways of saying, “Shut the $@*# up.” The ensuing conversation with management centres on whether we’re banned from all Starbucks or just this one.

6. Despair. It’s late February. The snowshoes we got for Christmas are still in their box. Communication among family members has devolved to a series of grunts, crude drawings and middle fingers. In this dark moment, a decision is made. The next person who comes up to us and says, “Cold enough for ya?”—we are going to murder that person. Not secretly. Not with any foresight or planning. We are going to reach out with our bare hands and we are going to strangle the life out of that person right then and there, and if anyone tries to get in our way then we are going to murder them as well because we just. Can’t. Take it. Anymore.

7. Despair. The neighbours are back from their March break trip to Florida. They’re all tanned and perky, and they sure seem eager to come over and tell us all about it—right up until they spot the barbed wire and land mines. They back away slowly. Spring is coming. It must be coming. But the nights still are long, and in our dreams we hear only the swish-swush snowsuit sound of the longest of the seasons.