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'The land God sat on.' That's what the wonderful poet and playwright, James Reaney, said about the place I grew up. There was no denying it. It was flat.


When I was in university, I studied English and Drama. The programme was primarily academic, but there were two or three performance courses held in the Drama Workshop, a black box theatre carved out of the old (and small) convocation hall. The Workshop retained the old convocation hall's balcony, still hung with the original, heavy, green velvet curtains. Behind these sometimes sat our resident éminence grise, Dr Reaney -- his office was up there. He loved the theatre so much he could even stand to watch us rehearse.


He found out I grew up about 20 miles away from where he did, and we'd sometimes talk about the snow, the ponds, the highways to anywhere else, but often about the snow. The winter winds sweep in from Lake Huron, heavy with moisture. The slight rise over the land cools the air just enough to dump enormous quantities of snow. The slight rise over the land is not enough to impede the wind. 'The land God sat on' was a blizzard machine, and we'd sometimes be housebound for days.


When the storm abated, it always seemed to be morning in my memory and very bright. The drifts were curled around the front of the house, often cresting toward the lee. They were carved by wind, perfect, casting indigo shadows in flawless arcs.


I would then have to clear the driveway. I'd always carefully cut the first shovelful, trying to carve it even as the wind had done. I couldn't, of course. Then I'd have to toss the snow to one side and the entire perfect, beautiful creation was forever marred. I've been thinking of that a lot as I start my new book.

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