Let’s hope the groundhogs got it right




These days a favourite mind trick is to pretend that all that snow underfoot is white sand on a beach someplace warm and sunny. If you love Canada but are not in love with Canadian winters and cannot afford to fly south, then this is the time to take defensive measures.

A core measure is to maintain a daily intake of Vitamin D. This will trick your body into reacting as if it has the sunshine it needs to otherwise produce Vitamin D. The news is that ensuring a regular intake of Omega-3 will also be beneficial.

But, even with the added vitamins some people, just like some plants, need to have direct sunlight – or something like it. If you cannot afford the expense of one of those lamps that simulate sunlight, a much more affordable alternative is the full spectrum light bulb. At about $10, this kind of lighting, sold in many health-food stores, can be helpful here in the dead of winter.

This strategy will get you through to the early spring predicted by a marmot named Herman who resides at the Toronto Zoo. Herman, it would seem, agrees with the headline making groundhogs, Wharton Willie and the two or three other well publicized prognosticators, who on February 2 – Groundhog Day – did not see their shadow, thereby predicting an early spring. The last time we had a long, harsh winter in which Wharton Willie got it wrong, the poor creature received death threats.

This just proves that a good strategy is necessary, because predictions are often inaccurate.

Inaccurate weather predictions meant a recent ‘snow day’ gift came to Toronto students all the way from the elementary to the college level. With a two-day advance warning of a ‘snow bomb’ that was expected to leave us with some 30 centimetres of snow everyone geared up for a big blast. But it was not to be. Perhaps all the hot air that passes for political discourse here in the ‘Big Smoke’ either melted or blew the bulk of the snow off course. In the end, it meant less snow shoveling. It also meant those in charge did not have to call on the military to clear the streets as Mel Lastman did.

It has been a full 12 years since the former mayor called in the troops to help subdue the 20 to 40 centimetres of snow that was dumped on Toronto in the middle of January 1999, and we are still trying to live that down. Toronto is not well loved by the rest of the country so any perceived overreaction to what makes a Canadian truly Canadian, such as being able to withstand the challenges of the climate, will earn us ridicule. Last week’s cancellations of classes were near the mark.

Canada is a country whose climate is marked by long winters with a brief warm period each year. Climate Change (or Global Warming) notwithstanding, the average annual temperature in Toronto is close to 8˚ Celsius; Montreal’s is 6˚ Celsius and Winnipeg’s is 5.5˚ Celsius.

The worst aspects of winter in no particular order are as follows: Invisible (black) ice on sidewalks and streets that lead to people slipping and falling or cars spinning out of control; the cutting wind; seemingly endless days without sunshine (some of us would rather a day with a -20 C wind chill as long as it’s sunny); those bone-chilling days that are both cold and damp and, finally, that winter lasts far too long each year.

This then explains all the excitement on Groundhog Day. We all want a glimmer of hope that, perhaps, this year winter won’t last as long. So, on the plus side, we are now five and a half weeks away from spring – that is, an early spring if the groundhog gets its way.

Should there still be snow and cold in April, we can again muse as poet T.S. Eliot did that it is ‘the cruelest month’.

A note on getting outdoors…

Despite all the grumbling about the cold temperatures and snow, don’t let it stop you from participating in some of the many wonderful events taking place this Black History Month. February is a great time to meet other people from the Black community who you might not ordinarily come in contact with. A very enriching endeavour.

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