Randomness, Years 3 & 4
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I went home to Thunder Bay for Reading Week (that would be approximately February 15-23). While I was there, I picked up a few essential things I'd left behind: my little book of quotations, my very stylish suit, a belt, a tie, a suitcase, a dress shirt, a pair of long johns, a sweatshirt, and my Sorels. When I got back to Ottawa, the temperature was above zero,* which, after what we'd been having, is really rather balmy even if it's only one above. The seemingly tragical thing about this was the fact that in weather where snow melts and the sun shines, Sorels really don't come in handy. Then we had a snowstorm and I was laughing . . .

In Watership Down, Richard Adams says that humans do not so much enjoy winter as they enjoy protection from it. Let it be known that Richard Adams is English. Had he known Canada, he would rather have said that Englishmen do not enjoy winter. Canadians, on the other hand, do enjoy winter. It is the cold we enjoy protection from (excluding Torontonians, who are prone to calling in the Canadian Forces when it snows). Whereas the Englishman enjoys being protected from winter by a cottage, a fireplace and a cup of tea (Early Grey, hot), the Canadian does not enjoy these things as his protection from winter. We may enjoy these things, but we tend to prefer protection from the cold than the winter (cottages, fireplaces and cups of tea tend to get more frequent use in the summer). We use gear that allows us to enjoy winter itself. We equip ourselves with toques, gloves/mittens, long johns, scarves, coats, wool socks, sweaters, and boots.

While I was in Thunder Bay, I needed to restock on some gear. I picked up a few items I needed to replace, such as gloves and a toque (such things are cheap this time of year). I did this so I could fully enjoy the rest of my winter. My old gloves were gargantuan (think Yeti-sized) and my toque too cold. I needed protection from the cold that fit and worked. You see, an essential part of a Canadian winter is the ability to spend large(ish) periods of time outside. This ability is necessary so we can do ordinary stuff as well as typical winter activities. Some like to figure skate, some to play hockey, some to ski or snowboard, some snowshoe, some simply skate, some curl, and almost all take part in ritualistic tobogganing, the goal of which is to see how fast/insane we can get without killing/maiming/incapacitating ourselves/others.

I cannot even perform "basic" functions without gear. Proper gear is absolutely essential to Canadian life. For example, last Tuesday (Feb 18), I did something typically me. It was something only someone from a northern country (Canada, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, northern Germany, Greenland) can fully appreciate, understand, or have the guts/power/stamina/insanity to do. I walked 1.6 km to 7-Eleven to buy a Slurpee. In the middle of winter. It was not an especially warm night. Not 40 below, but not minus ten either. Yet the Slurpee-addict Canadian (Manitoba is the Slurpee capital of the world) I am ventured forth for frozen bits of Dr. Pepper in a cup. I geared up: winter jacket, new toque, new gloves, Sorels. I was warm when I got there. And this brings me back to Sorels.

Sorels ought to be part of our national identity. They are a typically Canadian boot. My Sorels are 40-below boots. They keep my feet warm always (I've never experienced one of those 70-below Prairie winters, nor have I been north of the Arctic Circle [not even north of Peace River!] let alone wintered there). I love my Sorels. That night I rediscovered the supercoolness of Sorels. This past weekend, for the snowstorm, I exploited and revelled in the greatness of Sorels when everyone else was in shoes or little boots.

Sorels empower the wearer. I've spent this winter in Ottawa with just my little summer running shoes. I have shamed myself into complaining about the cold and trying to get out of ice-sliding because of these shoes. I almost lost my dignity as a Canadian the day after Valentine's Day. O brothers and sisters of the North, forgive my shameful, Americanesque,** Torontonian-like*** behaviour! Yet when I put on my Sorels, I became the King of Winter. Where snow had melted at street corners, I would not have to worry over a puddle that might get my feet wet: Sorels are waterproof. I splashed on through. Indeed, when I wear my runners around Ottawa, I expect to come home with wet feet and salt-stained socks. Not so with the Sorels. I purposely waded through snow that passed my ankles, ran atop snowbanks, clambered over piles, and sloshed through slush. Sorels go over halfway to my knee! When the snowstorm rendered Besserer almost unusable, I could make it through high and dry. I purposely left the sidewalk to the boulevard to fully enjoy and utilise my Sorels in Thunder Bay. I could conquer the world with my Sorels!

All Canadians should own Sorels. I will start a trend. They will come back in style! All of you, pull out your Sorels and wear them next time it snows!!!


*Note for Americans: I'm not doing the conversion. Sorry. You'll have to do it yourself or ask Leah.

**Second note for Americans: Admit it. You know none of you can handle cold like anyone north of the 49th Parallel! Inuktituk, the language of the Inuit (who are Canadian) has 17 words to describe snow. I don't think any native group in the USA can claim that. The only Americans exempt are Alaskans who don't live in the panhandle and don't get tropical winds from the sea in the middle of winter.

***Note to Torontonians and British Columbians: BC's coast doesn't get typically Canadian winters, so you guys should get the same treatment. And there are no apologies. I'm from the Prairies, the Foothills, and the Canadian Shield. I may not know winter like people from the north shore of Baffin Island or Rae Lakes, but I've had my share of cold, snow, and winter.

Copyright 2003, Matthew Hoskin