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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, November 27, 2006

snow and community

As I look out the venetian blinds of my office window, I see shrubs and trees clumped thickly with snow. Winter has arrived suddenly and early in Vancouver, and Kim and I are both delighted.

We both love snow because of its beauty and because of the quiet that falls over the world. Right now I hear no traffic going by; it's been minutes since a car has rumbled by the front of the house. Ordinarily that kind of traffic quiet happens only in the dead of night, maybe around 4:00 a.m., and then only for a minute or two at a stretch.

We also both like the inconvenience of snow: how it discombobulates and derails people's ordinary routines and patterns, turning ordinary errands into adventures. Most people hate this. They complain bitterly about the snow (even though Vancouver gets only maybe two weeks of snow cover a year, if that)--even more bitterly than they complain about all the other kinds of weather we get. I love it.

Yesterday we walked up to Safeway and the butcher to get some groceries, huddling under my large umbrella. With the goods in a backpack, we decided to walk through the neighborhood as the flakes fell thickly and silently. We made our way up 15th Street to Grand Boulevard, where we were drawn by the faint sound of children's shrieks of fun in the park.

There we saw a scene such as I don't recall having witnessed since I was a kid 30-odd years ago: a little crowd of kids and their parents with various kinds of sliding device, clustered on the edge of the soccer field where it plunges over to a slope to the lower park. Kimmie and I made our way past intact and demolished snowmen to a vantage near the bottom of the slope, and watched the kids (and adults) zip down on plastic sheets, mini-sleds, and inner tubes. One group had built up a snow jump midway down the slope, and one enterprising kid was hauling more snow on his toboggan to augment the jump.

We watched awhile, smiling, enjoying the scene of wholesome, enthusiastic, family fun. I tasted a sense of community--that precious, largely lost thing that I used to take for granted, indeed whose existence I only gradually became aware of through its gradual destruction.

We headed away, having got our fill, and remembering that we'd forgotten to buy roasted peanuts as part of the kung pao chicken that Kimmie had planned. We trudged past a couple of abandoned snow forts, no doubt built for an earlier snowball war.

Home to an excellent wood-fire (birch logs and a few pieces of apple-wood), and of course reading.

Yes, still quiet out there--so quiet.


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