For all its slipperiness, cold, and inconvenience, winter is a beautiful season here in Toronto, Canada. On days when the snow flutters down in beautifully chunky snowflakes that drift slowly across my vision, I feel at peace. Snowfalls are not always accompanied by frigid weather, contrary to popular belief. Snow is an effective insulator that can trap heat. It’s so good at insulating that snow igloos actually require a chimney to release heat thereby preventing the igloo from melting. If you don’t believe me, you can read more information about igloos in the Arctic Passage series on PBS:
It seems amazing, but these ingenious snow shelters are very comfortable inside, averaging about 65 degrees warmer than the outside air with windchill, especially when a lamp is burning. Snow has excellent insulating properties, and an igloo works like an inverted container to trap rising warm air. Often native peoples would line the inside of their shelters with animal skin, which increased the amount of heat trapped and prevented structural melting. If the house became too cold, they could plug the chimney with moss or leather; if it became too warm, they could widen the chimney.
In a few months time, I will be moving to south Vietnam for (potentially) two years, where the average temperature will regularly float between 25-30°C (77-86°F). Though I look forward to enjoying beautiful beach weather year-round, I will miss the calm that comes with the quiet of snowy days. I will miss the way the soft snow dampens the sound of wind and creates an almost silent world.
So until then, I will appreciate the beauty of winter. Drinking hot tea won’t be nearly as satisfying as it is after coming in from a cold day. Winter walks and hikes will also be a thing of the past. But the activity I think I’ll miss most is ice skating, a fantastically fun walking-on-frozen-water experience that almost certainly doesn’t exist in Vietnam.
You might be reading this from a country where there is never snow or where any snow is an unwelcome beast that shuts down your cities and causes nothing but terror on the streets. If so, you might be surprised to hear that among the top 10 Happiest Countries in the World, as ranked by United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the vast majority of them receive snow in all of their territories. This correlation between seasonal snow and happiness may not be a cause-and-effect relationship, but who knows? Perhaps snow makes you appreciate life a little more because it brings such a distinctive change in the environment that it elicits feelings of gratitude when the last snow melts to signal the end of winter (or when the snow signals the end of summer).
Nevertheless, people have a tendency to become grateful for what they have only after it’s gone.
Winter, I’m sure as hell going to miss you when I’m gone.