Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

TAIL END OF WINTER

ROYAL ORR

The recent cold hasn't kept the promise of spring's warmth out of the sun. I already see some sugar bushes tapped near home, the spiles and buckets on alert for a late winter thaw. Any day now, the snow will go.

We're at the tail end of winter, at least as far as sliding and snow-fort building are concerned. These are the only winter sports that have ever interested me much. When they're done with, I figure the season's all over but for the slush.

The fort building hasn't amounted to much this year. Even the side hill below the high ridge on our southern Quebec farm, where the west wind usually sweeps snow in all the way from Orford Mountain (or so it seems), piling it five and six feet deep in a good year, hasn't given us as much as a day's worth of tunneling.

The sliding, though, has been excellent.

Recently our church held its annual sliding party. For the kids, as we say. As usual, the adults outnumbered the young ones by about two to one. As long as I can remember, sliding parties have been social events of great importance - even reverence - for me.

When I was a child, the annual sliding party in my home village was sponsored by a group we called cryptically the "L.T.L". I asked the woman who was our leader what L.T.L. stood for. I was seven at the time.

"Little Tiny Lads," she said, with a broad smile. "Or if you like, Little Tiny Lasses."

Much later, my Dad told me that L.T.L. really stood for "Loyal Temperance Legion." And as I recall now, it's true -- we drank neither gin nor demon rum while sliding in Milby.

For the last 20 years or so, it's been United Church-sponsored sliding parties in Hatley that I have attended near winter's end.

At the recent sliding, the weather was perfect. The sky clear and bright. Cold enough to keep the snow crisp and fast. Warm enough to feel the sun's heat easily on your face. The little hill beside the cemetery is steep so that you get a good squeal out of the little guys on the way down but not so high that the hike back up feels like a punishment.

We lunched on big pots of corn chowder and loaves of homemade bread before we headed out. And when we were done whooping and sliding, we slipped back down to the vestry for sugar-on-snow that Lester Drew had boiled up to perfection. This was Sunday worship of a high, moving kind.

There is a pattern here, I now recognize. All my life, I have finished the winter with a snowy, raucous celebration of some ideological or theological belief. A kind of northern Protestant Mardi Gras.

In mid-life I have come to realize that my deepest religious and denominational commitment may be to being a slider. Back, front, prone, supine - I am catholic in my positions, but orthodox in the one true faith that there's no better way to honor God's creation and pass a sunny winter's afternoon than on a snowy hill with a waxed toboggan in the company of friends.

Royal Orr is a writer and broadcaster living in Hatley, Quebec.


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