In my corner of the universe, December has bipolar disorder.
It wasn't always this way. When I was a little girl, December rolled her snowstorms in right away, and kept them locked in until the last dregs of April washed them away. The first snowfall usually came midway through November, laying a placating hand over the lively rumble of our city. Us kids would waddle out to recess buried in layers of snow gear and use up all the snow in the schoolyard in about forty-five minutes. Impressive structures and personable snowmen would spring up to attention, to stand proud until the lousy Kindergarteners destroyed them, or the mean boys in fifth grade kicked the walls a little too hard.
Now, the snow still begins in the middle of November, and the kids still use it up and the stillness still falls, but it doesn't go steady until April anymore. It's difficult to predict when things will start to fall apart, but this year December brought torrential rain; and, not for the first time, Ontario felt like British Columbia.
When local radio stations start playing Christmas music, everyone waits a little breathlessly for those familiar lines: I'm dreaming of a white Christmas / Just like the ones I used to know. We did used to know them. Christmas morning would have us snowed in, banks as tall as me for the cat to jump in, the whole world wrapped and sleeping beneath a heavy white blanket. Glittering like a crystal cave in the light of a cold sunrise.
Now, there's alway a simmering sort of anxiety in December; a kind of knowing, but pretending not too. Christmas is usually green. Not literally green, but rather the colour of death. The earth is flattened under frost. We wake to dead grey grass, dull brown skeleton trees, temperature far below zero, and perhaps a light snowfall. No banks for the cat to jump in. "It's global warming," folks grumble, and perhaps they are right, and perhaps I am coming of age alongside my tired planet, and I am witnessing the shifting of seasons and the shrinking of nature and the shattering of earthly balance.
We know the snow will come eventually, and we know it will be cold - at the farmer's market every Saturday, the old men who used to give me toys take turns gravely stating that "this has been predicted to be our coldest winter yet." They aren't wrong; the winters are getting colder, but winter is getting up there in its years too, and it is no longer the assertive force it used to be. It is no longer the bold, unrelenting Canadian winter we take so much pride in weathering. The snow doesn't usually settle in until after Christmas. Hand in hand, January and February build up the banks, lay the blanket, and set the crystals sparkling. December takes no part.
Winter changing is indicative of what we have done to our planet. Yet it must not be seen as a month of gloom; global warming isn't something we can fix with flip of a switch, so instead we take steps to fight back. Our city buses were redesigned to be more eco-friendly. The malls provide hand towels as an alternative to paper towels. A&W gives us compostable straws in our root beer. Everyone misses those white Christmases, and it will take baby steps if we are ever to get them back.
Who can say that this Christmas will not be white? Perhaps the cat will have his banks again. And perhaps January will see us out in summer clothes. The weatherman does his best, but he cannot predict the ever-changing will of December, nor can he save Santa the unfortunate view of dead grey grass. We are at the mercy of the whim of the weather. Still we boast of our Canadian winter.
Still we love our bipolar December. Even sans snow, December brings with it a magical feeling; an ages-old collective joy. It's the season of giving. Colourful trees light up the long nights. Delicious, warm, sugar-coated apple fritters from the Christkindle market sell by the two-dozen. During the sporadic snowfalls, the city looks like a snow globe. Life goes on without three feet of snow; if we do get three feet by Christmas this year, it'll be fantastic, but right now the future isn't looking too white.
I love December. I love snow. And I love our planet.
This year, all I want for Christmas is a cleaner Earth.