"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
There are a couple of old saws often repeated by Albertans. One is, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change”. The other is, “It’s a dry cold”, with the implication that our frigid winters are much more tolerable than several degrees warmer in a humid atmosphere. (It’s another excuse for a good old prairie-versus-coast rivalry.)
Both are true and yet this month has attempted to belie them both. In decades past, winter was generally colder (see the second graph on this page). From November until at least March temperatures would generally stay below freezing, zapping us with bright sunshine on a -20°C day and blowing blinding snow at -10°C. It was true that the only constant was change but you really didn’t have to figure out what to wear each day other than a necessary decision with regard to that extra sweater.
This January hit us with two solid weeks or more of daily snow and -20° to -30°C temperatures – a long spell of unchanging skies. As if we’re not all suffering from a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder or Vitamin D deficiency anyway, the lack of any blue skies, the accumulating depth of the snow and the bitter cold seemed to really take a toll on everyone. Spirits were decidedly low.
Then suddenly last week the temperatures swooped above freezing by several degrees. The sun came out for entire days and I managed to take a few pictures before the snow swiftly compressed and melted by inches.
With the sun, came the wind, bitter and vicious. It was cold. Cold like I’m not used to. Thirty degrees warmer and the icy sting of moisture in the air was palpable on exposed skin. No number of extra layers seemed able to repel the penetrating humidity. So we can no longer say, “It’s a dry cold”, to describe our beloved winters, but we sure do know why we say it.
At the end of the week the mercury dropped again. The puddles and the moist top layer of snow re-froze into smooth, gleaming sheets. The moisture that coated everything froze and the moisture still in the air froze to it, thickening wires and needles and twigs. The sun hid beyond ground-hugging clouds and I got tired of waiting.
Sunrise and sunset still occur while I’m at work, so my only daylight fix is during my short lunch break. I hadn’t been out walking very much in January due more to the wind and snow (and possibly a bit of an energy shortage) than the temperatures. The odd time I did, I found very little inspiration in the flat gray world.
On Friday, however, I managed the better part of an hour away from work. The air was wonderfully still and the scene had brightened to white. Fat, bright frost coated especially the north sides of the trees like fur. I still couldn’t go far: there was not enough time to make the circuit on snowshoes or skis in waist-deep snow, so I followed the snowmobile trails that circle the school yard at the edge of the bush. Facilitating my route while frustrating me with their thoughtlessly meandering and inelegant scrapes, I nevertheless shot frame after frame of whatever compositions I could find including what I consider the most unattactive kind of fence.
Going through my images at home however, I found that I had not captured the feel of the experience. So as I love to do, I ‘played’ with them. As readers know and is evidenced by the Flickr column on this blog at any given time, I am all over the place with my photography – no personal style to speak of. That doesn’t particularly concern me; I haven’t been shooting seriously long enough to expect to have found my way. Each image speaks to me with its own voice and I try to interpret it honestly each time. With Friday’s collection though, I decided I wanted to try to do a cohesive set. Just because. Here are the results. I hope I have conveyed a sense of calm, quiet winter.