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True Winter Tales: Today's pick

By Shamima Khan

The snow was like sky sugar. When I stood out in it, arms outstretched, face upturned and staring into the immense whiteness, quietly letting snowflakes pour over my body, I promise you, I was receiving a blessing, a benediction. I stood there for a long time in that holy silence.

There were no edges of ice slicing into my skin. Instead, they felt more like feathers, fragile and good. And oh snowflakes are so small. Yet, when they pile together, they transform into something so magnificent and powerful. It is a miracle how they engulf the world in their smallness, this earth that is so much bigger and stronger than them. 

I keep picturing snowflakes as tiny white creatures, floating through the air, their minute translucent parachutes billowing out behind them. Once they reach the ground, they find their siblings, their friends and loved ones, and together, all these miniature snow creatures hold hands and form themselves into this incredible crystalline structure, with an architecture so intricate it is impossible to see with the naked eye.

It was night, the snow fell completely undisturbed. There was not a single footprint, paw print, or tire track on the surface of the entire neighbourhood. Just pure unending white. I stared and stared and the very texture of time changed. Something inside me lifted. If I'd raised myself on my toes, the wind would have picked me up, carried me away effortlessly.

Later there are blizzards as hard and sharp as pin points. I squint my eyes through the ice edged window trying to discern the snow angels, but they are either dancing too fast, wings ablur, or invisible. The white beads continue to knock on all the glass panes of the house: let us in, let us in; but my family pretends they can't hear. I lean casually against a wall, surreptitiously testing its solidness while listening to the winter stones crash on the roof. 

My sister spreads old newspapers in front of the fireplace. I clean our old snow encrusted boots slowly, with a new washcloth moistened with warm tap water. Wiping off the crystals studding all our laces, I'm bemused by the slow tide of sadness that rises through my body. I try to think of summer, of the fields and trees being so ripe and full the very air above them turns green. But it doesn't work. I pull my blanket over my head, making a tent of homemade warmth. 

Next year the grass will awaken, after a long translucent sleep beneath wave upon frozen wave of snow. The snow itself will recede, like a long lost memory, revealing hard cut outs of grey black silver and white layers of ice, compacted into some new and alien mineral. The stage midway between coal and diamond. The earth breaks open at the end of winter, and though spring tries, it never quite manages to close the gaps.

Ottawa, 14th December; the first snow

Shamima Khan is from Nepean, ON

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