Spark·PERSONAL ESSAY

It's dark when I wake up. It's dark when I leave work. In winter, there is no sun here

Social media is a flurry of #wintermagic photos this time of year, but Spark senior producer Michelle Parise isn't having it.

'I love you Toronto, but I don't love Winter Toronto.'

According to the Weather Atlas, Toronto has a daily average of 2.8 hours of sunlight in January. Most of us never see it. (Michelle Parise/CBC)

I hate winter. It feels like an endless wind tunnel. In wet clothes. Under the greyest sky. For what feels like forever.  

I live in downtown Toronto. My walk to work and back usually takes about fifteen minutes. Except in winter when, depending on the snow and wind, the time can be doubled. Just getting out the door takes an extra ten minutes too. Finding all the gear to bundle up, putting it all on, sweating while doing it ... ugh. I have to wake up at least half an hour earlier than normal just to get to work on time, and I hold that against you, winter.

If you're one of those people who love winter, you've already decided I'm a whiny baby who just needs to change her attitude. That's okay, it's what I'm here for. I'm here to say that sure, winter is nice in photos and lovely on a leisurely day in the countryside, but day in, day out in a big city? It's lousy.

"But snow is so beautiful!" they say. Hm. (Michelle Parise/CBC)

People who love winter, love to mythologize snow. They're the first on social media to bemoan that, yet again, it wasn't a "White Christmas." When snow finally falls and stays on the ground, winter lovers post photos of themselves skiing to the grocery store wearing cute hats, or they make collages featuring the imaginative snowmen of the neighbourhood's lawns. Oh look, here they are waiting in a gigantic lineup for an overpriced hot chocolate at an overpriced winter market,  #wintermagic!

I'm not having it. I will make instant hot chocolate in my apartment while wearing fuzzy socks. There are no lineups here, and no sweating/freezing/sweating/freezing cycle for my body to endure. Temperate. That's where I'm at.

Snow is nice when you're tromping around in a forest on a sunny day, or sitting in a cottage by a fire looking out at the unspoiled sparkly blanket. But generally, in Toronto, it's nothing like that. 

Here, the snow is brown. It's wet. It's heavy. Walking to work in winter means being splashed, a lot, with dirty slushy snow. Potholes make mini-slush lakes that pedestrians have to wade across, or try to jump over. At every intersection, you can witness the slush-puddle dance that all urban dwellers have perfected, like we're peculiar birds in a retro Hinterland Who's Who vignette.

Dramatic, yes, but there is some truth to it. The slush is partly due to Toronto not being all that cold for most of the winter. And we are known for some unbelievably bad potholes. 

Walking to work in winter means being splashed, a lot, with dirty slushy snow. (Michelle Parise/CBC)
 

But what's worst of all, in this city I was born and raised in and actually do love, is the lack of sunlight. It's dark when I wake up. It's dark when I leave work. That means I'm outside in daylight for less than 30 minutes per day. Grey daylight. Grey minutes. There is no sun here. 

I live for the "Happy Light" in my office, the one I bought on the internet last winter when I thought maybe I might not make it to spring. Happy Light floods me with what I hope is happiness, but is really full spectrum light therapy that mimics daylight. I don't know if it helps me, honestly, but I like to believe it does.

Blue blue sky on a farm outside of Beaverlodge, Alta. (Michelle Parise/CBC)

Lack of sunlight leaves me feeling lethargic, depleted and unproductive. Each year I save all my pennies to go somewhere hot over the Christmas break, but this year, I went to rural northern Alberta to meet my boyfriend's family instead. Rural. Northern. Alberta. I thought I would die, but guess what?

There, I loved winter. The sky was a beautiful blue and the sun was out all day, every day. Everything sparkled—the ground, the trees, the hoods of cars. And there's this thing called hoarfrost, have you heard of it? I've never seen anything like it. It's beautiful! I was outside all the time, took a million photos and I never felt cold cold, not with that glorious sun and sky.

Hoarfrost and sunshine, a beautiful sight to wake up to, New Year's Day 2020. (Michelle Parise/CBC)
 

Obviously I've been on Team Summer my whole life mostly because of the lack of sunlight in my hometown. I love you Toronto, but I don't love Winter Toronto. 

So, I will patiently wait out the next few months, dreaming of sunshine and beaches and picnics and only needing 30 seconds to slip on shoes and get out the door each morning.

Michelle Parise is the senior producer of Spark.