The Winters of My Discontent

Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Map)

Winter 2010.


When I pondered this update I considered shelving it, for it is certainly a first world problem.

It's not even the worst of first world problems. People work 84 hours/week, people live in cities with 165 days of rain & people live in godforsaken tents upon barren arctic wastelands. And we're only talking about geographic problems here. I realize it can be far worse in terms of abusive spouses, not having enough money to feed yourself & miscellaneous shitheads making your life a living hell.

Today we're only talking about geographic factors though - and in a discussion of geographic factors, we need to consider Corner Brook.

Something has to be said for living in the snowiest city in Canada.

When it first comes, it doesn't bother you so much. You've savoured the summer months because you knew it was coming. Also, with my 3 winters, they've all come fairly late so I've been sufficiently prepared. It hasn't been a matter of it starting at the ides of October, they've all started in late November or December (and this past winter amazingly didn't come until the day I left to go home for Christmas).

Therefore when it first comes, it's not that big of deal. You're ready & you try to stay positive. Your mind tells you that you have 5 months of snow ahead, but you try to quickly ignore those thoughts.

You go for walks, you bundle up & you wear a ridiculous amount of clothing to keep warm...with tailored clothing to keep your feet, ankles, calves, thighs & groin dry.

Whenever someone asks me how I like Corner Brook, my general reply is that "it isn't bad, but it snows too much." The reply I've got 95% of the time, is that I need to take up some winter activity.

To me I see that as entirely pointless. I enjoy biking as a physical activity. I had indoor skateparks growing up...hell I could make do with an abandoned building to house ramps - but neither exist here; only 7 hours away (the indoor skatepark).

I also find this to be a funny way to combat the 164 annual inches of snowfall. To me, snowboarding/skiing/snowshoeing/snowmobiling are pretty pointless, as they aren't compulsively enjoyable activities to me. To me, these activities would be comparable to taking up raindrop collecting or umbrella walking if I moved to Seattle or Portland.

Although I know I'll never get anything back from biking, I still enjoy pushing myself & it brings joy to my day-to-day life. I know many people see it as entirely pointless, but I see hurting myself & wearing down my joints for a brand new activity - like snowboarding - as entirely pointless. I would have to snowboard for years to become even mediocre, as I'm not a talented person, nor am I person who picks up things quickly. In actuality, I'm a giant coward who needs to take baby steps of progression towards anything that scares me.

It's in this, that you start to think about your life & the passing of time a lot, when you live in a place like Corner Brook. For 5 months of every year, I can't push towards the #1 thing which I put effort towards.

5/12th of every year is a fucking waste in my eyes.

I picture myself in 20 years, sitting back, disgusted at my 20-year old self for throwing all of these precious youthful months. As I sit old & broken, I'll look back to some depressing, snow-filled, January evening, where I'll never be that young or that open to possibility, as I was that evening.

I never believed in seasonal depression, but Corner Brook opened my eyes.

As I'm not a very sympathetic person, I always thought people were whiners when they talked about seasonal depression - but then you move to a place like Corner Brook, and you leave work at 4:30 in the darkness everyday, it's -5°C for months at a time, and it is continuously snowing for days, weeks & months. As you walk home, your shoulders feel like they are burdened with 50lb weights as you slink forward. It takes such effort simply to walk home, to push your feet through the knee, thigh or waist deep snow. Of course May will come, but when it's January 11th and the snow is relentless, it is hard to think, "if I don't think about it, 5 months of my life will slip away even quicker & this will be over soon enough."

It's also completely fucked to wish away 5 months when it doesn't have to do with jail, work or sickness.

So you try to cheer yourself up. You try to do the things you enjoy like going for weekend excursions. You drive for hours, only to get out and find yourself waist deep in snow. The number of places to see around Corner Brook is limited normally, and now you can't adventure anywhere besides the groomed paths or the bars & taverns. And if you think you can combat this with snowshoes, you quickly realize that the 5 feet of snow has buried anything worth seeing.

Some would argue that the nature around you is worth the effort of snowshoeing, but snow-covered trees don't do it for me when we're talking about 20 weekends & the effort required.

Therein lies what it is. I try to stay positive, I try to let my life pass me by, but the problem is clearly me. I don't like snow-covered trees, I don't like staying in a room for 5 months, I don't like embracing snow.

It's not Corner Brook, it's me. In the same way that St. Louis, with its 22 inches of annual snowfall, wouldn't be right for a snowboarder, I think it's evident that Corner Brook is not for a person who enjoys biking and infrastructure adventures.

Of course I only get fired up for a few days, then my spirit breaks & I get back to watching time slip away.

The odd day I'll get fired up & think I'll clear the skatepark, but the ice won't let that happen.

The odd day I wake up at 7am and go bike in the (open-to-the-elements) parking garage, but frozen hands and painful, frigid crashes, means that doesn't happen nearly enough.

I choose to do it to myself, I do.

The funny thing is that it affects others just as much, others who don't have any ties to the need for non-snowy weather.

It's a good time of year in the spring, not only because it's the longest time before another winter, but because your depressed friends become really cheerful as the snow dissipates. It's also satisfying to a salty, bitter man like myself, to see all these people cheer up, after the snow-loving people have celebrated & taken such cheer in our depression.

Of course the excitement is always a bit premature. Dirt lingers and makes the city gross for a transitional 2 week period, prior to the street sweepers & the heavy rains.

But then everything becomes okay again.



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