Just as Canadian summer has its hot spells, winter has its cold periods when the temperature tanks and we’re reminded that much of our country lies north of the Arctic Circle. When Arctic winter seeps down to the southern border where most of us live, cuddling so close to the US we can hear Americans snore at night, we’re reminded once again that we’re a northern people.
Starting last night and forecast to last for several days, the temperatures have dropped to -21C (-6F) at night to highs of -11C (12F) during the day. The brutal wind chill factor will dip to -30C (-22F) at its worst.
Such temperatures bring hazards. Street people in the city have to be moved to shelters. Elderly folk, and people with heart conditions, are advised to stay indoors. Those who are inclined to go outdoors are advised to dress appropriately, with many layers of warm clothing, good winter outer gear, and scarves and hats to protect the ears, nose, and mouth.
It’s enough to depress some people and encourage others to take those Carribbean cruises or travel packages to Florida.
And yet … cold spells excite me. If the wind isn’t strong, I try to get outdoors. The kid in me wants to experience the weather; the photographer in me wants to take photos.
As a heart patient, I have to be extra careful, so I dutifully bundle up in warm layers, including long underwear, and don my warmest winter overcoat with parka hood. I make certain my cell phone is charged, in case of emergency. And I keep my goal modest: a walk to Starbucks, then home again, with a lengthy warm-up period in between.
Fortune favoured me today. I suspected it had when I was able to solve two medium sudoku puzzles in the time it took me to eat breakfast. The portents were good. More to the point, the air was still. When there’s no wind, the prospect of a walk during an Arctic chill is much pleasanter. After listening to a couple of podcasts while my breakfast settled in, I donned my gear and started out.
The best walking conditions occur when it turns Arctic right after a fresh, dry snowfall and the soft snow crunches and crinkles underfoot. Unfortunately what preceded this cold front was a warmer front that raised temperatures to the freezing point, which meant a lot of melt occurred. This turned to ice overnight.
While ice is good for skating, it’s miserable stuff when it’s glazed the sidewalks. The walk to Starbucks, which takes me about fifteen minutes on good sidewalks, took a bit over twenty minutes today because I had to negotiate slowly around slippery spots most of the way.
Nonetheless, the walk was fun. My outbreath froze into my moustache, my fingers went cold and numb (note to self — get better gloves), and my toes got too cold to continue sending complaints to my brain, but the walk was bracing. I even managed a few photos, clumsily using my Lumix LX3 with gloves on.
When I returned home, I gave myself some time to warm up, then enjoyed some leftover homemade split-pea soup. Quelle habitant! Later I’ll resume work on setting up the creative nonfiction writers forums, then turn to Terry Pratchett for more Discworld adventures.
To survive in a cold climate, it’s good to have an active inner life.