The polar vortex that has driven temperatures in much of North America down to what is considered warm on Mars has, as usual, left Vancouver Island pretty much unscathed — until just recently.
I’ve always found it refreshing to spend some time working in my garden during the winter months at my Island home, preparing it for the spring planting, while Canadians from the rest of Canada typically deal with their deep-freeze issues in temperatures that will cause frost bite on exposed skin within minutes.
It’s something I’ve had to contend with for most of my life while living in other parts of the country.
I remember living in Toronto many years ago at this time of year.
I would get a shower in the morning preparing to go to work and, during the 10 seconds it took me to walk from the front door to my car, my wet hair would almost instantly freeze solid on my head.
It was so cold that it would hurt just to breath and you would have to take short intakes of air to avoid taking in too much frozen air directly into the lungs.
Daily living during those winters turned into a struggle for survival as you took on the death-defying challenge of driving on slippery and snow-bound roadways, and risking heart attacks as you shoveled out the wet and heavy snow from your homes and businesses.
While living in northern Newfoundland, the snow-belt of that province, I would regularly have to start my day by finding my car somewhere buried in the snow bank that had formed overnight on it, and then dig the car completely out before making my way to work.
But most people living in the colder parts of the country deal with this reality for long periods every year, and most survive it with good grace and a deprecating sense of humour.
That’s why I’m so surprised and amused by the reactions of many Vancouver Islanders when the temperatures here dip below zero, as it has over this past week.
Although the coldest I’ve seen it here so far this year has been -6 C, compared to -36 (and colder with the wind chill) in many other parts of Canada, I’ve watched many Islanders react as if a new ice age has descended on us.
If Toronto was just -6 C right now, people would be sitting on outdoor decks wearing shorts, but many Islanders I’ve seen over the past week have on full ski-doo suits with their heads so wrapped in tuques and scarves that all you can see are people’s eyes.
Although we had just a sprinkling of snow on the Island’s east coast on Monday morning, an employee of my brother’s store in Nanaimo phoned in to say that he felt uncomfortable driving his car the five-minute ride from his house to work because of the “winter conditions” on the roads.
He said that if the road conditions didn’t get any better by Tuesday morning, he would catch a bus to work.
While I tend to snicker at such stories, the truth is that I’ve been living on the Island for so long now that I wonder if I would accept living in other parts of Canada at this time of year with the good grace that I had in the past.
I’m just glad to live here.