A winter storm, or Kashtin in Cree, is blowing through town and snow is continually falling and covering up the already frozen landscape in a layer of fresh white powder. Gusts of wind flare up every now and again. These powerful bursts flow around the houses and obstacles in our yard, creating snowdrifts here and there.
I am nine years of age and I am wandering around my neighbourhood with my friends in the midst of this blizzard. Strangely enough, the weather is never extremely cold during a winter storm. The temperature hovers around minus 20, which is considered mild on the coast of the James Bay in winter.
We feel a deep urge to stay out in the storm. It is exciting and exhilarating. We are bundled in warm parkas and snow pants with fur-lined hats and traditional hand-crafted moose hide mitts. This extreme weather demands that we tie up our hoods to cover up our heads. The fur lining on our hoods protects us. Still, the storm is strong enough to whip large white flakes onto our faces. Behind our fur-lined hoods the skin on our cheeks is damp from the melting snow. We peer out from these hoods as if looking through tunnels. We shout at each other over the noise of the howling wind. Everything is a little muffled inside our hoods and under toques and scarves. Most of the time we stay quiet and are content to be together in the midst of this sea of blinding white bluster.
It is a grey day and a dim light is defused through the layers of clouds. We can only see a few houses in our neighbourhood and it feels as if our small community has shrunk in the fury. The gusting snow and grey light makes it seem as if we are living in a featureless world. There is no horizon but rather a continuous sea of greyish white light on the ground and above our heads. At times when the gusts are at their strongest, everything disappears behind blowing walls of flying snow. We are mesmerized by the dancing and swirling wisps of white flakes that look like speedy pale serpents or constant waves of water that rush over hard, packed snow.
The storm is enough to entertain us at first, but later on we decide to play a game of hockey. A winter storm can never deter a game of hockey in the north. It just makes it a more interesting challenge.
We are not the only ones with a love for hockey. Several of our cousins and friends are already at the rink. They are occupying only the quarter of the ice surface that has been shovelled. The rest of the rink is covered in so much snow we wonder if it will ever be cleared. We lace up our skates while sitting comfortably on the fresh snowdrifts. They are kind of like beanbag chairs. Then we enter into a game with our friends and chase the frozen hard rubber puck around the rink.
The snow continues to blow but we soon forget the storm as we skate in a sort of dance that seems choreographed to fit in with the raging blizzard. We spin, jump and glide on our stage of frozen ice and in the midst of curtains of billowing snow.
The storm soon wins over and it is almost impossible to keep our little patch of ice clear of snow. The light is growing dimmer and we are tiring. It is time to head home.
I can see our house in the blue light that comes with the evening. My home looks inviting as I make my way through the bluster and the increasing cold. In between the gusts, I can see the warm glow of the kitchen window. I pick up my pace as I get closer to our wooden house. I know that mom has something prepared to eat and hot tea to go with it. It’s time to close the door on the storm.