Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. File photo

Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. File photo

Valley Views: The Wonderful White Stuff

‘The transition to a quiet, white landscape was a welcome one.’

By Margaret Miller, long-time Creston Valley resident

I was pleased to see the arrival of snow in our valley this month. After an unusually hot, dry summer and the rains of November, the transition to a quiet, white landscape was a welcome one.

On a practical level, the recent snowfalls meant a little less dirt around my home. Less mud and the beauty of a frosted landscape, but not enough snow to demand heavy shovelling and plowing. It will be a different story come January and February. The arrival of snow meant no more muddy paws prints in my kitchen. No soggy rain jackets dripping by the door. Gum boots and umbrellas were stowed away. Warm winter boots and comfy down jackets reported for duty.

Of course, I shouldn’t complain about a little pre-snow mud in what has been a devastating time for many British Columbians. Flash floods and mudslides in and near Merritt, Abbotsford, and Princeton created catastrophic losses and displaced thousands of people. Thankfully, the Creston Flats – agricultural land reclaimed in the 1930s after dykes were constructed along the Kootenay and Goat Rivers – did not experience flooding and homes bordering the Goat River were left untouched.

Although I’ve lived with snow for more than thirty years, I still find aspects of it fascinating. In particular, it’s ability to be dry and powdery when the temperature remains below freezing is intriguing. Snow that can be shaken from clothing like sand. Snow that looks like icing sugar. Snow that refuses to clump into temptingly-throwable snowballs.

I wouldn’t have grasped this notion of dry snow as a young woman living in Australia. The only snow I saw back then – on ski hills in the Australian Alps six hours south of Sydney – was often wet and slushy by late afternoon. After all, Mount Kosciuszko, the Alps highest peak, is 2,228 metres high. That’s just 453 metres above local Kootenay Pass, so not a particularly impressive statistic for a continent’s tallest mountain.

A blanket of snow on the ground lets me see the small highways and byways of the great outdoors, the distinctive tracks and prints left by passing animals and humans. Walking near my home and in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, I become a sleuth, guessing what four or two-legged creatures have wandered the area before me. A parallel set of boot tracks, one set big, one set small? Likely a parent and child. A cluster of pronged prints? The wild turkeys. A tiny track disappearing into long grass? Likely a mouse. Trails of two narrow imprints? Wandering deer.

December snow reminds me to appreciate the beauty of a winter night, to string a few white lights in the living room or light a few candles. A white landscape reminds me to step outdoors during the full moon and drink in the quiet beauty. Snow on my sloped driveway takes me back to the 90s, the little-kids-on-sleds-days for my family. I picture my son and daughter slithering down that white slope again. Woollen hats and tiny mitts. Giggles and candy pink cheeks.

It feels more like December with a frosting of snow in the valley, more like the festive season. And December is a time of celebration for many. Winter solstice. The holiday season. Christmas and Hanukkah. New Year’s Eve. Time away from the rigours of work and school for many locals. Time for snow angels and pond hockey and hot chocolate. Sleeping-in, late-breakfast, bed-hair days for those who need it.

Of course, not all of us enjoy snow; not all of us find December particularly festive. This month is difficult for some in our valley, difficult for those coping with hardships or separation. December isn’t a jingle-all-the-way time for everyone, so the rest of us need to be aware and to be kind. Thankfully, we live in a valley where support services, community groups, volunteers, and neighbours reach out with helping hands.

Seasons greetings to everyone! May December snowflakes fall softly and may 2022 treat us kindly.

READ MORE: Valley Views: Almost Month

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