Shovelling out from under it

Michael Johansen
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The crick in my back (long overdue in my case, but common for everyone who spent this whole winter in Canada) appeared on Vancouver Island — on the West Coast, that is, where the climate is supposed to be balmy and where I wanted to go through climatic decompression on my way from Tropics to tundra. However, the 40 centimetres of snow falling over a night and a day let me know (like everyone else already knew) that winter was far from over. Shovelling the wet, heavy stuff was just what the crick needed to spring back to life.

That crick was nothing new. It's been my workmate for most of my life, bothering me for hours on end, nagging and complaining. I admit it taught me a few useful things, like how to lift heavy objects with my knees and how to shift copious amounts of snow without feeding the crick too much. How to push snow, how to scoop it, how to toss it over a fence were all lessons in how to keep the pain away. Yet the crick always comes back. This time it easily overcome the beneficial effects of high heat and humidity. All it took was a single fall of snow.

The crick came a second time in Ottawa, not because of all the snow that was still falling, but because it was so cold. For me the ambient temperature had dropped almost 60 degrees in a very short time. I froze stiff.

Now back in Labrador a long deep freeze has finally ended. That means it's warm enough to snow again. That means shovelling is needed and shovelling means a crick in the back. I couldn't keep it away.

First I had to finish digging my truck out of a winter-old snowbank and now I have to keep shovelling away the new ones that form daily. Ergonomic or not, a shovel in hand can put a wrench into the strongest of backs — so what hope has mine?

Now, a simple crick (no matter how annoying) cannot make up for months spent in the south during North America's winter-of-hell — what with one polar vortex after another scouring the continent, leaving Newfoundland without power at the worst possible time — but the crick is bad enough to put me into a properly foul mood for the coming spring. The long hard winter is hanging on even longer, but few people show much optimism for spring. They cast about for any sign of its approach, but show little joy when they find one. They make the season of renewal sound as grim as a coming blizzard.

"It feels a little warmer," one passerby says flatly. "Spring's coming. It's coming."

Across the country there are fears that fast-melting snow will trigger floods, but that's not what's getting people down. Nor do they seem particularly put out by the continuing examples of how weather is changing, becoming wilder and more unpredictable — more examples that will not doubt be ignored by any agency capable of addressing the problems.

No, the cause of any general malaise in Canada comes more likely from outside the realm of meteorology and from inside that of politics. The cause is pessimism. Simply put, whats the good of spring when everything else will stay the same? Sure, it will get warmer, but we'll still be stuck another whole year — two whole springs, in fact — with a provincial government (Newfoundland and Labrador's, that is) that lost its mandate during the blackouts. It should be heading to the polls as soon as the ice is off the ponds, not dilly-dallying month after month to give itself the time to impose as many unsanShovelling out from under it

ctioned policies as it likes. The Progressive Conservative Government did not change character just because it changed heads.

That's how my crick helps out, I suppose. It has speedily put me in the same foul mood as everyone else who is waiting for this prolonged winter to finish — everyone who wants spring to arrive, but is bitterly disappointed it's not bringing an election with it. The province has to wait all the way to a second spring for that.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in North West River, Labrador

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Vancouver Island West Coast Tropics Ottawa North America North West River

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