The buried ‘treasures’ of spring

Susan Flanagan
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It’s amazing what’s revealed when the snowbanks (eventually) retreat

Years ago, when I was doing regular tours of the city, I had a couple from Australia in my van who were moving here to live and work. Despite the fact it was April, Christmas decorations were visible on lawns all over St. John’s.

We are still waiting to see what will melt out of the snow in our backyard. — Photo by Susan Flanagan/Special to The Telegram

The previous December, an early snow had come fast and furious, quickly covering up decorations. The snow stayed on the ground that year and it was months before people had a chance to dig out their Christmas decorations and get them down.

I have been asked thousands of questions in over 30 years as a tour guide but I have only been asked the following once.

“What date do you celebrate Christmas here?” the Australian lady innocently asked.

She had that deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes and I could tell she was thinking: into what backwater have we fallen?

But it was a valid question considering her surroundings.

It’s difficult for people from away to cope with our winter and lack of spring. Goodness knows it’s hard for born-and-bred Newfoundlanders to cope. Just ask the snowbirds.

This January I thought of that Australian lady when I met a couple from China who moved here in the midst of the Blackout.

“Power Outrage,” the wife mistakenly called it, which I thought was a brilliant, if unintended, play on words. This 23 year old who had never seen snow, let alone felt wind and cold like we’ve experienced this winter, has been doing her best to get fresh air. She’s been snowshoeing and tobogganing. She’s walked the Rennies River Trail. She even went to the beach last weekend.

“Don’t worry,” I lied to her. “The worst is over — the snow will soon be gone.”

But I did not explain that when snow melts around here, it’s not a pretty sight.

She had already asked me why the snow is now black. But she hasn’t yet witnessed the mounds of dog poop or beer bottles. Or bags and shopping carts that appear all over town like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie.

I was happy she was not with me the other day when I came across a big fat dead rat on the side of the road, its corpse so frozen that the crow trying to get a bite of dinner sounded as if he were pecking at a rock.

On that same street, not far from the dead rat, I found a frozen cellphone and was able to return to its owner. She scurried in to submerse it in a bowl of uncooked rice on top of her fridge. I haven’t heard if she was successful in reviving it.

I remember when we lived on Shea Street; one winter morning a lens popped out of my husband’s glasses. As you know, a clear lens is not easy to find in fresh snow, but that spring, to our amazement, one unharmed glasses lens appeared in the driveway. (Note: by that time, he had misplaced the glasses. By the time he found them, his prescription had changed.)

“One year we found a hearing aid,” says Emily Hartery. “It was up the shore and we were just kids. We thought we had found a finger.”  

“I lost a set of keys in the bowels of winter when I worked in central Newfoundland in the mid-90s,” says Heather Barrett.

“I dropped them into a snowbank in front of my house in January. That key ring held my life — housekey, work key, car key, housekey, even bicycle lock and luggage key. Dug around in the snow for the keys for several days, then gave them up for lost, and had to replace all my keys. They finally appeared on my lawn in May.”

Melting snow does sometimes offer up better loot than dead rodents and doggy doo doo. Kate Benson once found her lost gold earring by the front door when the snow melted and Kelli Martin once found a $10 bill in the melting snow when she was a child. “Very exciting when you are a kid,” she says.

“In our backyard, I am always amazed to see all the toys we left out over the winter,” says Amy Kendell. “The kids think it’s like a treasure hunt and when they see pieces of coloured plastic sticking out of the ground, run out and dig it up to see what it is.”

“Last weekend I saw a laundry hamper full of plastic hangers coming out of a solid snowbank off of Canada Drive. The snowbank was giving birth,” says Corinne Breen.

So, who knows what my Chinese friends will see appearing in snow banks between now and the time the snow fully melts, and at this point I don’t think they really care. They just want it to be gone. Then they may be able to get a good look at the house they purchased.

 

Susan Flanagan can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

 

Column feedback

Patsy Ploughman writes: “I read with interest your latest column. I came to work at the Sunshine Camp in 1958 — it was a children’s rehab centre at that time and there were several cases of Perthes disease there... I had trained at the physiotherapy school in Liverpool and worked for a short while at a children’s hospital, but I had never come across it before. I wonder is it more prevalent here?

“Now I haven’t worked with children since 1960, and I retired from the adult acute care in 1996, so my knowledge is just a tad out of date.”

Geographic location: China, Shea Street, Newfoundland Sunshine Camp Liverpool

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