Eastern Ontario winters are not for the faint of heart. They are bitterly cold. They are relentless…and, they are long. They are not for the casual skier wanting a fashionable romp down a pretty hill only to return to the safety and warmth of their faraway homes. They are not for the frivolous winter vacationer staying at a rustic lodge to photograph a deer or a moose, from the comforts of their cozy cabin windows.
These winter days are for hardy souls only; all others need not apply. These are for people prepared to use a heavy shovel and an ever-present snow brush on a daily basis. These are for people possessing the knowledge and necessary techniques for walking on different types of ice…without falling. Some ice is flat and smooth like a hockey arena. Some ice is snow-covered, just enough to make the hidden surface even more perilous. Some days the ice is black, unseen, undetectable, rendering the walker completely unaware of their vulnerability.
This is where you’ll find the stalwart souls who soldier on, through ice and snow, from October through April each year, month after long winter month. These are the people who listen to reports of schools closing, and distant cities shut down because of the ‘bad’ winter weather, as they trudge through the snow on their way to work because it’s ‘just another day’. These are the people, young and old who wade through snow, stroll on the ice, and drive on slick roads in freezing rain, for months each year. Before their school day or work day has even begun, they have shoveled their sidewalks, brushed off their cars, stepped gingerly on ice, trudged through resistant snow drifts, all of this while bitter cold winds sting any skin unprotected by cumbersome layers of clothing and boots.
These are the enduring rank and file, possessing rare perseverance, stamina and patience. They are dreamers and unflinching optimists. In the final unbending weeks of the coldest season they will study seed catalogues, plan gardens, visit boat shows, and envision themselves under clear, blue skies on calm, warm, July afternoons. They conjure endless images of cottages, muskoka chairs, hammocks, beer and barbecues. They dream of tulips and trilliums, green grass, and sunny days.
As the late winter unwinds its final few weeks in Eastern Ontario, perhaps the most anticipated signal to herald the new season for these enduring folks, will be the time-honoured, and always sublime, first taste of their beloved maple syrup. It spells the defeat, the finish, the finale, the wind-up, and the end-of-the-line for winter. It marks the beginning of spring, of brighter longer days, and the sweet, golden taste of victory for the hardy souls who have survived yet another long, cold Canadian winter.
Discover the history of maple syrup production in Lanark County, Eastern Ontario in ‘Taffy on the Tay’, an excerpt from Lanark County Chronicle – ISBN978-0-9877026-23