I had some errands to do in the big city. Well, one errand really – getting my German passport renewed, which requires going to the German Consulate in Vancouver – but of course, it’s also the perfect opportunity for a Christmas visit with family & friends.
But this is winter. In Canada. Vancouver, from where I live, is on the other side of a mountain range – nothing on the order of the Rockies, but still, mountains; the highest pass is at 1728 m. And while I quite enjoy that drive in the summer in nice clear weather over dry roads (there’s nothing better than a solitary five-hour drive for concocting novelling plots), I utterly refuse to drive it myself between Thanksgiving and Easter. Because, mountains. In other words, snow.
And boy, was I ever justified in that policy this time. I’d booked my Greyhound bus ticket a couple of weeks ago, when there wasn’t a speck of white to be seen around my house. Then, a few days ago, it started snowing. And it snowed, and snowed…
So there I was at the bus depot, first thing in the morning as it was just getting light. Greyhound stations are depressing places. In this one, the women’s washroom has one stall with a broken lock, the next one with a broken toilet tank (it won’t fill properly), and a hand dryer that just sighs at you instead of blowing properly, but does so with great regularity about every ten seconds even when you’re not holding your dripping hands under it. So there you are, sitting on the can – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!”…
The bus was over an hour late leaving. The driver had got in late the previous night from driving the Vancouver route, and he needed his eight-hour break to get some sleep before he could get behind the wheel again – that’s the law. A law which I’m in utter agreement with, especially in this case. Buddy, I want you to get a good solid kip, before you’re carting me and fifty others across that mountain!
“I drove this road last night,” the driver said as we were pulling out of town, “and there’s nothing good about it. I’m going to take it slow.” You do that, buddy, you do that! “However,” he continued, “you’ll still see me passing a lot of the other vehicles, and that’s simply because this is the best-equipped vehicle on the road.” Very reassuring, that (even if he just said it to keep us calm and not-freaked-out).
So on we went, through a winter wonderland. Snow, snow and more snow – what you could see; most of the higher-up view was hidden in a thick cloud. Rows of fence posts with their comical little white toques; waterfalls of icicles streaming off rock walls; trees shrouded in drifts of cotton wool. Coming back down the mountain, not-yet-frozen streams still gurgling beside the road, the rocks in their stream bed converted to puffy feather duvets floating amidst the dark water.
I was profoundly grateful for that bus driver, who ferried us so safely and competently across. In the end, we were only an hour and a half late – his “taking it slow” made for no more than an extra fifteen minutes. An everyday hero, I was thinking. It might sound a bit melodramatic, but still. The lives of fifty people were in his hands that morning, on that snowy mountain road. And then, no doubt, he turned right around and drove another fifty back the other way. I sure hope he got a longer break that time.
Life, the Universe, and a Snowy Drive Over the Mountains. Things to be grateful for.
Christmas Greetings from my house to yours!
If you’d like a bit of a different seasonal read, give Cat and Mouse a try. A fair chunk of it takes place in winter – there`s lots of snow to be had, and even [teeny tiny spoiler] a Winter Solstice Feast!
Here`s an excerpt from the scene when it first starts snowing:
By the time they were finished supper, the snow was already three inches deep, and the wind was picking up. Cat could hear the snowflakes hissing as they hit the inside of the chimney pipe.
“Ooh, cosy,” she said with a comfortable little shiver. “Nothing like a good warm fire on a cold evening! Is there going to be lots of snow, do you think?”
“Probably,” Guy said, “it’s usual this time of year. Only four more weeks to Solstice. There’s been years where I barely made it through the snow to get to the Solstice Feast.”
“Oh, yeah, the Feast! Is that like the Equinox Feast that we had in town in September?”
Guy laughed. “No, not quite–it’s about ten times as big. The hall is usually filled to overflowing. The Solstice Feasts are the biggest ones of the year; all of Ruph and the surrounding areas comes decked out in finery. Which reminds me, I need to look out my feast clothing; the mice had better not have got into it.”
“Feast clothing? You mean everyone dresses up? But,” Cat’s eyes were wide, “I don’t have anything to wear!” Then she laughed. “Listen to me! I don’t have anything to wear,” she repeated in a high-pitched, affected voice, wringing her hands theatrically and fluttering her eyelashes. “Oh deary me, whatever shall I do?”
Guy grinned. “I’m sure we can find something,” he said.
A sudden wind blast rattled the outside of the cottage, and howled around the corners.
“Whoa!” said Cat, “that was a big one! I’ve never actually heard wind whistling around a house before, I only read about it, but this one sure does whistle. What’s it looking like out there?” She went to peer out through the window. “I can’t even see anything out there, it’s blowing so much!” She stepped over to the cottage door, unlatched the hook, and pulled open the door a few inches. “Oy!” she called out, having to suddenly lean hard against the door as snow blew in through the crack. “That’s a humdinger of a storm, and it wants to come in!” The snow was whirling hard past the door, Cat could barely make out the trees on the other side of the clearing. Then Guy was behind her, helping her push the door shut, and latched it again. Cat brushed at the snow on the floor with her foot. “Is that an extra-bad storm, or is this normal?”
Not to give anything away, but aside from getting their fair share of snow, they sure know how to party in Ruph. Next to having a celebration myself, I love nothing so much as writing one for my characters. So if you haven’t read Cat and Mouse yet, go check it out!
And now I’m going back to munching goodies and drinking Glühwein (mulled wine), and I might just watch one of the movies I got for presents (Cinderella and Inside Out. Yup, kids’ movies. Your point is … ?).
Hope you have or had a lovely holiday season yourself, whatever festivity you celebrate! And if you don’t celebrate, poor you – I mean, umm, hope you had a great Bah Humbug Day, just the way you like it.
Life, the Universe, Christmas and Cat and Mouse. See you in the New Year!