Every year, Canadians engage in a months-long war of attrition against winter weather. Put gloves on, you win a round, add the winchill factor and you lose one. Efficient heating systems, one point, ice coating power lines, winter is back in the game again. And… touchdown! The entire month of February with temperatures below – 10°C! Oh oh… global warming? Never mind, take glacial temperatures!
Each environment, no matter where on earth, presents challenges. For instance, in Puerto Iguazú, our clothes were stained with the red clay that would turn into thick mud after each downpour. And every time I go to the seaside, I always feel I’m carrying out half of the beach in my shoes and my bag.
In Canada, we battle with salt—not common table salt but de-icing sodium chloride. “I’ve just spent an hour and a half of my precious free time trying to clean the hallway!” I complained to my mom over the phone. “The mats were full of salt.”
Much has been written about our “magical” Canadian winters, and people often picture themselves at home, in front of the fireplace, lazily sipping a mug of hot chocolate, watching snowflakes falling gracefully outside and slowly building up the kind of scenery featured on postcards and shared online.
And I can’t disagree: right after a major snowfall, it is pretty. Unpractical, but pretty.
Unfortunately, a picturesque winter dreamland scenery “ages” as well as your average Disney teen pop star.
In their fight against winter, Canadians won the first round ingeniously, by spreading copious amounts of salt on the roads and sidewalks. It is a necessary evil to avoid slips and falls and to make ice melt faster.
However, in the long run, salt won the war. Spray-salt damage is evident everywhere. The roads and sidewalks are white, slushy and grainy, cars are covered in a thick layer of white powder. The harsh salt melts off your shoes and stains your clothes. The roads are bumpy, with huge potholes, and the asphalt is cracked because of the constant freeze-thaw cycles.
These days, our snowbanks are not the kind of pretty fluffy mountains on top of which you want to climb and make snowballs. No, snowbanks are half-snow half-salt—coarse black salt, that looks like gravel.
Urban fixtures disappeared months ago under mountains of ice, snow and salt, and at one point, we all decided we did not give a damn about them. We will find—and use—garbage cans, picnic tables, playgrounds and benches again in the spring. One day. Meanwhile, people seem to constantly stepping over something—puddles of slush, snowbanks, ice patches…
It’s hard to find beauty in this greyish and bleak scenery. But this is our reality.
You can see more pictures of winter in Ottawa on Flickr.