First winter storm brings chaos… and community

Looks like we’ll have a white Christmas this year, don’t you think?

As I write, on Tuesday morning, the wind swirls snow around our farmhouse. The stumps of our aged aspen trees poke through growing drifts, and our evergreens resemble perfect replicas of Christmas-card trees.

Meanwhile, out in the fields and upon the roads, the romance of winter eludes farmers, motorists and pedestrians.

While I’m here working away in my electronic office where my daily routine is usually only dependent upon my computer and electricity, others among you are heading out to feed and milk the cows. Still others among you are watering and giving daily rations to your horses, llamas, donkeys and poultry.

And those of you with children possibly don’t share my view of winter as you bundle up tots into their snowsuits and figure out how to get the dears to school.

For today, schools are open but the buses are not running.

Talk about chaos. At least this time, Environment Canada prepared us for the storm. Monday night’s national news depicted scenes of the storm as it hit the United States. The first Canadian victim was Windsor, appearing dimly through driving snow. The usual slow-motion dance of cars skidding into ditches and tow trucks out in force reminded us all that winter has arrived.

It’s interesting to see how we all deal with snowstorms. Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman was an intriguing case in point last year. Do you recall what happened? Mayor Lastman called in the troops, literally, when Toronto was hit with a major storm in January ’99. Yes, much to the amusement of us all in the ROC (Rest of Canada), the army helped the city clear its streets in an unprecedented state of emergency for Toronto the Good.

Yesterday I was chatting with a client in Toronto and predictably, before we even started on our business, we talked weather. “This afternoon I couldn’t see across the street,” she said. I could just imagine what the commotion would be like outside her office at Avenue Road and Bloor as traffic churned fresh snow into beige-coloured sludge.

According to CBC radio, Mayor Lastman didn’t telephone the Canadian Armed Forces yesterday… Toronto residents and councillors were so embarrassed about last year’s cry for help that they evidently made a new year’s resolution to enter the new millennium bravely prepared for the winter their country delivers.

This is a good thing. It’s timely and appropriate that Mother Nature can tap Torontonians on the shoulder and remind them that they are part of our universe.

Back here at home, we don’t need a tap. Pontiacers are realists: we don’t have an option, really, do we? Every season has its definition, and we know how to roll with Mother Nature’s punches.

So do Ottawans. This morning, CBC radio host John Lacharity informed Pontiacers that Highway 148 was closed between Luskville and Mountain Road. And he fielded commentary from stranded motorists, City of Ottawa superintendent of roads Willy Dunn, as well as from the Angel of the Queensway.

The Angel is a new Canadian who has a unique way of thanking his fellow citizens for welcoming him to Canada. For the past 10 years, he’s been heading out to Highway 417 in Ottawa and cruising for stranded motorists, offering help in the form of a boost, windshield-wiper fluid, use of a cell phone or a host of other services, for free.

No wonder he’s the Angel of the Queensway. Today, in the wee hours of the morning when lack of visibility and drifting conspired to transform the highway into chaos, he was out and about, helping people wherever he could.

Which brings me to reflect upon winter, Christmas and community.

Stories of people like the Angel are inspiring. And what’s important to remember is that each and every one of us are capable of such acts of kindness and thoughtfulness.

Particularly at this time of the year, people tend to wail about Christmas. You know the tiresome chant, that Christmas is too commercial, that folks are meaner now, more materialistic, more this ‘n that.

Right. As if.

There has always been materialism; today it’s just a matter of degree. Sure we can be bombarded by television commercials… but you have to have the TV on to see them.

So what are you going to do about it?

For me, Christmas is like Mother Nature’s winter. It’s what YOU make of it.

I choose to enjoy both, and create a sense of magic and wonder out of this incredible season of hope, renewal and joy. What about you?


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer and author who works from her electronic cottage near Quyon, Québec. Contact her by e-mail at or check out her website at