Crossing the Snow Line – Excerpt

Growing up in a cold house in a cold country, I learned about warm places—the air above the toaster, the steam above the kettle, the cups of tea in our hands. When my mother baked, I would lean against the oven and read.

Canada was founded on the desire for warmth, the search for Cathay. When the Orient didn’t materialize, explorers pursued the warmest object of all: they followed the lush climate that animals carry on their backs.

As the trees shed their leaves, I think of Stan shedding and how we shed him. We gave him away. At the airport he went trustingly into a cage. We sent him to Victoria and I haven’t seen him since.

Stan was a lush climate. One day, after picking wild blackberries, I plunged my arms into his fur, soft against all the scratches. At home I brushed him. Hairs and dust filled the air and glowed in the sun.

We shed Stan because we shed each other. How do we shed missing?

I went back to Winnipeg and everything reminded me of Keith. I missed him and I remembered missing him, this time in the context of last time. I walked past my old apartment building and remembered how long the winter had been without him. The same sign was posted in the hallway.

Don’t throw sunflower seeds on the floor as it makes the floor messy.
Wipe your feet.
No extreme noise at all times.

When I arrived it was cold, and in the morning I looked out at a fresh layer of snow. A fresh layer of missing on top of the old layer, so that it was thick and complete. Keith and I met once in the snow. I had taken a bus to see him, and while waiting for him at the station I walked along a street lined high with snowbanks. They were over six feet high, and so was Keith. He picked me up laughing, and I tasted the cold on his face and the ice in his beard.