February 11, 2014

Snowy Encounter

“Why did you move to Israel?”

People always ask this question and I’m sure they expect a deep, passionate response.

“Well, it’s a bit superficial,” I answer warily, lowering my eyes in embarrassment. And since I’m not someone to fib or hide truths, I tell it as it is. I take a deep breath, look back at them squarely and announce, “The weather.”


I don’t think people hear this answer too often.

“I came for the weather first,” I explain. “And only after living in Israel did I become a fervent Zionist.”

But let me give some background. I am from Toronto, a place where the temperature was recently minus 30 degrees, a mercury reading so cold that Fahrenheit and Celsius are equal, flash frozen in frigidity. 

It is a place where people are glued to weather forecasts so they can determine whether they should wear a facemask to work; a metropolis where eyes are peeled to the storm watch channel in case they must dash out for milk before ice rain pelts, turning roads into skating rinks.

And I have been told that I live in a dangerous place.

Driving in the depths of a Toronto winter is far scarier than being on Israeli roads even with our overly caffeinated, hot-tempered drivers.

Case in point. I was in Toronto last week and had to drive a fair distance to be at a friend’s home for Shabbat. I started watching the storm channel on Wednesday, two full days before I had to sit behind the wheel. They spoke of a gathering storm and heavy snowfall, filling me with anxiety; the car I was to drive had no snow tires.

Sky and ground: an undifferentiated mass.
Friday arrived in its gray splendor (the kind of day when sky and ground are an undifferentiated mass, matching the snow banks towering outside everyone’s home). Roads were clear according to the latest traffic report so I was set to go, arriving at my destination just as the snow flakes started to swirl.

All day Saturday, more snow fell, piling high along windowsills, cloaking the pines and completely erasing the roads. By the time we watched the Havdalah flame sputter out, my heart was pounding with anxiety. I trudged to the car and with the help of my daughter and my friend Jon, we grumpily scraped and dusted the snow off the car windows. I blasted the heat, sat down and gripped the steering wheel tightly.

 I drove 25 kilometers an hour, bit my lips and obsessively pressed the windshield washer fluid button, hoping it would give me peace and clarity. But it merely smudged things up. I could not see a thing save for the red lights of the car in front of me.  The lines that separate the lanes on the highway were gone. I had nothing to guide me. My nerves were so shot, I drove to the nearest sanctuary, my brother’s house, where I abandoned the car.

I have been living in the Middle East for eight years and I have not been as scared there as I was that night navigating the 401 during a blizzard. 

Winter is a real hazard, yet each morning Canadians set out in their parkas, scarves and toques to drive along icy roads where wind whips snow across lanes and slush globs onto windshields.

I guess we become accustomed to our environments and maybe I have been away from Canada too long, eh?  Yet this snowy encounter gives me such gratitude to be living here in Israel where the one assurance we do have is good weather.

1 comment:

  1. I have just come in from a walk with Spike. It's a tiring affair. First I had to put on my coat, my hat and boots. Then I had to put on Spike's coat. I put it on not so much for the cold but because it covers parts of his stomach and back so I don't have to scrape ice, snow and filth off those parts when we get home (only all the other parts). Then I had to put on his boots. I just bought some overpriced new ones that are essentially small thick red balloons which are easier to put on than his old assortment of boots. I sat him on my lap to do this and of course the boots were covered in salt and dirt and were still wet from the last walk so I got all that on my pants. Then I put on my mitts but had to wear a mismatched pair since the lining for the thumb of one of them seemed to have disappeared and made the thumb inaccessible. Of course everything had to be done in reverse on our return home plus the full body towelling off of winter crap stuck on and in Spike's fur. Repeat this 3 times/day and you can imagine how crazy I am. Please allow me to continue my weather rant. I have shovelled more than I have shovelled any other winter in memory. Every time I step out of the house it seems another part of my stairs have iced up and I need to re-sand and salt. Almost daily lately I'm knocking icicles down with a broom (although the one I knocked off a few minutes ago was about 3 feet long so I could reach it easily from my porch). My formerly black car now has a constant whitish salty exterior and constantly finds its way onto my coat. As you know much of the winter has been brutally cold and I could count on 2 hands the number of walks I've had since Christmas time (although most of the avoidance came from fear of slipping on the ice of which there has been huge amounts this year). I don't know how you managed to drive without snow tires in this. That would be the last step for me before hospitalization for a mental breakdown. And it's only mid February. I can't recall another winter as trying as this one. Thank you for listening my fellow winter hater.


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