My childhood was peppered with road trips across the Canadian prairie visiting family – the smell of mosquito repellent was the smell of Canada to me until I went to college, and still evokes fond memories of whizzing past grain elevators, finding interesting bugs in the splatter of grasshoppers on the windshield, sitting around the fire pit after a 10pm sunset, etc. etc. The only time I'd visited in the winter was one rather miserable Christmas, in which Edmonton was basking in sweater weather while Victoria – balmy retirement capital of Canada – got three feet of snow. But prior to visiting I'd been filled with horror stories about the prairie winter, mainly of the barefoot-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways variety, which was probably a big reason why we only visited in summer.
I had planned my big Turtle Island* trip for February because I knew I'd be visiting LA, and that's one of the least unpleasant months to be there (and one I don't mind missing in Cambridge). As it afforded me the chance to get a taste of RealWinterTM at last, I booked a few days with my aunt and uncle in Calgary. And ohh my gosh, did it get me – I only had a couple days to enjoy it as I was unfortunately bedbound for some time with a stomach bug, but for months afterwards I found myself fantasizing about the taste of the frosty wind and how everything just sparkled. In off moments, I still find myself trying to strategise when would be best to make a return trip.
*A name used by several First Nations for the landmass of North America. As it is a) their continent and b) a way cooler name than "North America", I have taken to using it, forgetting that most other people didn't grow up listening to the Turtle Island String Quartet on Prairie Home Companion and therefore are probably deeply confused by my doing so.