“Blow, blow, thy winter wind. Though thou aren’t so unkind as man’s ingratitude. Thy tooth is not so keen, because thou are not seen. Although thy breath be rude”.
This song I learned in high school during my first year in Canada made me realize that, instead of a typhoon season, winter is a permanent part of life in Canada I need to get used to. Adjusting was not always easy, but it is my position that we have to find ways to “winterize” our lives, find ways to make the tough parts manageable and appreciate this time of the year.
I was taught how to layer my clothes to be more protected. I learned the hard way a few practical tricks as well. Sometimes, fluffy outerwear is enough, but waterproof items are more important especially when snow is melting. As a teenager with limited income, I bought cheap boots and coats that only lasted a year and don’t protect me at -40 degrees while taking public transit. Also, heading out while your hair is still wet is never a good idea!
I finally bought industrial-grade winter boots called Kickspikes that was popular among postal workers and tradespeople, who work outside all day long. It is $400, with sturdy rubber treading and a button that activates metal spikes come out of the sole, for walking on slippery surfaces. The insulation was incredible, at -40 degrees back in February, I only needed only one pair of socks. Our feet and mood and mental health are worth the investment of proper protective winter footware, as part of winterzing one’s life in this city.
Ironically, my best winter outfits were either gifts or from a thrift store. I bought two snowpants from the children’s clothing section of Value Village, one is a fluffy jumper style, and a windbreaker you wear over your outfit. My winter coat for four years now is a branded label coat with large pockets and warm lining that cost me $20, which retails at $300. My favourite scarf is not even from Canada but was a gift from my ninang when she visited Baguio City in the Philippines. My best winter hats were also from the Baguio City’s Night Market!
Snow clearing is another task that is unpleasant and important, but the more I live here, I embraced a passionate moral duty to do this diligently. Vulnerable members of our community always struggle getting around in winter, such as people in walkers and wheelchairs, parents with strollers, and those who would feel badly hurt if they slip and get a fracture.
I aim to be a proactive citizen by clearing our home’s sidewalks regularly, and generously apply snow melt that is pet-friendly so dogs don’t get hurt while walking. I also clean the bus stop that is two houses down the street and use the City of Edmonton’s 311 app to report roads and sidewalks that are improperly (or haven’t yet been) shovelled. This is how I apply the Filipino value of “Tapat Ko, Linis Ko” as in, I diligently clean the space in front of me.
Finally, winter should not be a reason to feel stuck, lonely and bored at home. There are numerous evening activities as well such as Candy Cane Lane, outdoor markets, and more. When I went to Zoominesence at the Edmonton Zoo in 2018 when it was -35 degrees and marvelled at the light displays and animal enclosures, I felt fierce, strong, and eager to venture outdoors more often moving forward.
We are blessed with an expansive river valley trail system, that is gorgeous in wintertime. Local parks and trails are a few minute walk away in our neighbourhoods. Whenever the weather is between 0 and – 15, which happens a lot, it is worth visiting these “winter wonderland” places during the day. And these public parks are free, no need to go out of town to a ski resort! Winter City Edmonton is an initiative that is gaining traction, so let us live our lives here with this perspective all the time.