I was browsing my winter photos the other day, and actually cringed when I found one with the comment, “Yay, the snow is back!” We’ve had so much snow this year, I can hardly believe I felt that way only a few short months ago. At the same time, I’m aware that all this snow will seem as unreal as a dream in another few months.
In the last few days, I’ve been walking around our property, making mental notes:
- the snow is over the top of the driveway reflectors
- look how it’s drifted right across the fence
- it’s higher than the railing on the back stoop
- the snowbanks along the road are taller than me.
Right now, we’re inside looking out at winter and wishing it will go away. But it will go away, and we’ll be outside looking into our memories, shaking our heads as we say to each other, “Do you remember all that snow we had last winter? It was up to here!”
Photo taken on February 28, 2011
That combination of snow and rain on Friday night made for some horrible driving. I agree that the trees look really pretty.
I arrived home safely, but then managed to wedge the car into a snowbank, and with all that ice underneath, all the wheels could do was spin. I was so relieved when my partner remembered the old rug in the garage, and between the two of us, we managed to get it free again.
That high wall of snow and ice chunks left by the snowplow Saturday morning across our shared driveway made me want to cry. I almost cried again when our neighbour’s friend drove up with his plow to clear it.
We bundled up and took the dogs to the park yesterday, but it was so cold I wanted to turn around and go home again. But once we were in the shelter of the trees on the sunny side of the lake, it was warm again, and people were smiling, and the snow sparkled in the sun.
More snow is expected today, and more rain tonight. To be continued.
Photo taken on February 27, 2011
I can’t believe the snow this year.
The snowdrifts are almost hip deep.
The snowbanks on each side of the driveway are over my head.
Can you remember the feel of grass between your toes?
Every day I have to bundle up.
I have so many layers to put on when I go out.
I have so many layers to take off when I come home.
Can you remember the sound of bees humming in the hot afternoon?
It’s impossible to go anywhere.
The sidewalks are deep with drifts, or too icy for safe walking.
The streets are slippery, the parking meters half-buried by snow.
Can you remember the smell of hamburgers cooking on the barbecue?
Photo taken on February 2, 2011
After the storm had blown through yesterday, we went through a walk through the quiet streets in our neighbourhood. As we walked, we admired the sculptured snowbanks piled high by plow, snowblower and shovel, and smoothed to softness by the wind.
Walkways and driveways had already been cleared in front of some houses, and others were deep in drifts. A dog ran out to greet us as we walked by; his owner was busy with the shovel in front of his house — you wouldn’t have known he was there except for the snow flying up over the high bank. Another man with a snowblower was working farther down the street, and I could hear the sound of an ice scraper behind a running car in a nearby driveway. A taxi drove by, taking the turns carefully.
There was still a nip in the wind, and the soft snow swirled from snowbank to snowbank as we followed the tire tracks through the snow. We returned home, our cheeks red from the cold, cleared the back steps once more, and hung our hats to dry over the mudroom heater.
Photo taken on February 2, 2011
A few snowflakes are spinning lazily through the air outside my window. I know from the weather forecast that this is just the beginning, the harbinger of a huge storm which has paralyzed portions of the U.S. from Texas to Maine. From what I’ve heard, the storm won’t be as severe here, although we are expecting heavy snow, with about 30 centimetres by tomorrow morning.
It was on this day 35 years ago, in 1976, that Saint Johners experienced our “storm of the century”. The Groundhog Day Gale was completely unexpected. The day started calmly, with the temperature around the freezing mark and a light wind. The winds rose to more than 180 km per hour, causing a huge amount of damage across the city. Windows were smashed, telephone poles toppled, cars and sheds and airplanes were flipped and crushed. At high tide, the water rose over the low-lying parts of the city, and the hurricane-force wind carried the salt water for miles inland, causing electrical failures not only that day, but even months later. The gale was followed by days of bitter cold, which — combined with widespread power outages — sent many people to seek shelter. Miraculously, the only person killed was a man whose ice-fishing shack was blown across the river.
Already, outside my window, the few snowflakes have become a steady snowfall. On the internet I’m reading about the “snowpocalypse” in the States, and — on the other side of the world — a cyclone the size of New Zealand that is pounding northeastern Australia. It looks like many of us will see another storm to remember for years to come. But if it’s any consolation, I don’t think the groundhog will see his shadow today.
Photo taken on December 9, 2009
For a while, yesterday afternoon, I thought we were in a different world. Instead of arriving in civil flakes, gently collecting in swirls and drifts, the snow arrived all at once. The sky turned dark mid-afternoon, then I saw a few flakes drifting past the window. Then the world turned white.
It’s not the best kind of weather to be driving in, but when the snow hit, everyone and their car headed for the roads, hurrying to get home before it got any worse. Ironically, it got better, afterwards, but how was anyone to know?
Then I discovered that my dad was at a mid-afternoon doctor’s appointment. His vision is not what it used to be, and he doesn’t have winter tires on his car. So we headed out to try and rescue him. We headed out in this, with the slipping cars and snarled traffic, where you could hardly see the edges of the road.
It turned out that my father had left just before we got there, and he did make it home safely, as did we. Fortunately, everyone knows about winter driving here. People drive slowly and carefully. And that van that started sliding down the hill toward us? We stopped and let him in — he ended up sliding right in front of us — and the line of cautious traffic continued on its way.
Photo taken on January 12, 2011
I’ve read a number of other people’s resolutions and goals for 2011 in the last couple of days. It almost seems as if, on the stroke of 12:01 a.m. January 1st, their ambitious plans suddenly popped up on the calendar, ready to be checked off the list.
I look at my calendar, and it tells me nothing.
Sure, there are lots of things I’d like to accomplish in 2011, but my main goal — a successful career change — needs more than a few quick checkmarks. As I’ll be turning the big 5-0 soon, I figure that whatever career I end up (hopefully sooner than later) should be one I can stick with.
I feel like I’m ready for a change, but I don’t want to rush into the wrong decision.
This photo, taken during a snowstorm last January, reminds me how much things can change. Since it was taken, we’ve built a fence and made a lot of improvements to the house and garden. But here in the middle of winter, it’s harder to see the changes, the thick snow falling now doesn’t feel any different than last year’s snow.
So I’m not in a hurry. I’m taking stock, watching the weather, and trying to be prepared for the inevitable changes that lie ahead, just around the corner.
Photo taken on January 20, 2010
We had a green Christmas. The sun shone, the roads were bare and the temperature was mild. Although I was hoping for snow, I admit that it couldn’t have been a better day.
Then, late on Boxing Day, a Nor’easter blew up along the coast and dumped a pile of snow and some rain through the Maritimes. As I write this, a blustery wind is shaking the trees and blowing last night’s fresh snow into sharp-peaked drifts. The landscape has completely changed. My shoulder and back muscles are still sore from shovelling snow yesterday, and I know there will more shovelling to do today.
Welcome back, winter.
Photo taken on December 27, 2010
I wanted to share some photos of the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood. The houses are so beautifully decorated, they just need a good snowfall to make the scene look more like Canada and less like Florida. Instead, I’ve chosen this photo, taken last year during a snow storm. This (to my mind) is what a picture-perfect Christmas looks like, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year. We’ve had rain and wind during the night, and it looks like it will be another day before it blows over. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a few flakes before Christmas, but the temperatures this week are at the point where any snow could turn to rain (or vice versa).
Still, it could be a lot worse than rain on Christmas. It could be a lot of rain, like the 150 cm over 24 hours in southwestern New Brunswick last week that caused a river to overflow its banks, flooding 120 roads and damaging nearly 100 homes. It looked like Christmas would be ruined for many people this year, but for the amazing, generous and heartwarming response from local businesses, neighbouring communities and politicians who have collected funds and organized disaster relief, hosted dinners, offered temporary places to stay and distributed dehumidifiers and other supplies to those affected. With so much generosity, so much warmth, so much welcome, who needs snow?
Photo taken on December 9, 2009
New England has sent us a storm today; the forecasters predict upwards of 50mm of rain. I heard it beating in waves against the windows last night, along with a wind that howls up from the valley and thrums under the eaves. The city is dark, and the black-paved streets and deep puddles swallow light and create bizarre reflections; down the street I see a bright yellow school bus leading a parade of cautious cars. Drivers hunch over their steering wheels, their windshield wipers just out-of-sync with those of the car behind.
I am heading uptown in an hour, knowing the rain will drive sideways as I scurry around tall buildings, knowing the water will pour in rivers down the steep alleys and my feet will get wet. I will wear my yellow rain jacket and walk quickly. When I come home again, I will run inside, dripping, rain-tossed and bedraggled. My glasses will steam up from the warm house and there will be fresh homemade bread and baked beans. And I will be grateful that it is not yet winter.
Photo taken on October 24, 2009
Our attitude toward weather is clearly biased. Despite the fact that we need precipitation to survive, wet weather is always bad weather, and sunny weather is fair and fine and good. Popular culture mostly reflects this. Think of the classic Harold Arlen song, Stormy Weather: “Life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere/Stormy weather, just can’t get my poor old self together…” Compare Rainy Days and Mondays (always get me down) and Sunshine on My Shoulders (makes me happy). Oh sure, you might hear Laughter in the Rain but you’re much more likely to be Walking in Sunshine.
I don’t know the origin of the term “liquid sunshine”, but I know when applied to rain it sounds much more pleasant. It’s a perfect illustration of the power of language to change how you feel about something. I’d rather drink from a glass which is half-full rather than one which is half-empty. Sure, I feel just as gloomy as the next person when the skies are dark and the rain is coming down in buckets, but maybe I need an attitude-ectomy. Maybe next time it rains, I’ll get out my jungle umbrella and go for a walk (instead of just standing on the front porch, like I did to take this photo). I don’t need more excuses to stay inside, I need more motivation to get out of the house. Would you like to join me? Come on, let’s go “walkin’ in liquid sunshine, oh yeah!”
Photo taken on October 27, 2010
Storms are like operas. At the start, you can sense the dark clouds building on the horizon, the impending doom. In the midst of the storm, there is a lot of wind and wild movement, small creatures run away and copious tears are shed. The German term sturm und drang (storm and stress) describes well the extremes of emotion expressed during the height of an operatic storm.
Then there is a lull, a deceptively peaceful period when the eye of the storm passes over and it seems that love will prevail, after all. You have a moment to lean back and take a sip of wine, but — watch out — the 2nd act is more dramatic than the first, so hold on to your seat! Again the wind comes howling through, tossing limbs and bending strong trees to the ground. Again the chorus of sirens, as lightning strikes and fire rages. Again the shedding of copious tears, the heartbreak, the tragedy of untimely loss.
At last — yes, once the well-endowed soprano has sung her final dying note — it ends. The world has been scoured and refreshed, the storm has passed on and life will continue. Catharsis, and peace. Tension, and release. Storm, and silence.
Taken on October 15, 2010
Despite the wind warning, rain warning and tropical storm warning, all we got yesterday was a stormy day. Hurricane Earl turned east and landed closer to Halifax. Still, locals flocked to Saints Rest, the nearby “big surf” beach to watch the storm surge. And emergency officials followed them, asked them to leave, and closed the access. We were headed that wayto take pictures, expecting a show of impressive waves, and were disappointed at having to turn around. We went to another local park, in a more sheltered area, to find modest breakers rolling up the rocky beach, and a few spectators in bright raincoats. A local who was out walking her dog shook her head. “What is everybody doing here?” she asked. “There is nothing to see. It just looks like any other day.” Yes, I suppose that’s true, but like everyone else, I wanted the excitement of being out in (the edge of) a hurricane… without, of course, the excitement of a near-death experience!
Taken on September 4, 2010
I’m fascinated by the variety in weather patterns as the seasons change. The rainy days of spring give way to the hot dry days of early summer, and now — in mid-August — another pattern has emerged: heavy fog lifting in the mornings, sun and showers in the afternoons and thunderstorms overnight. It’s not exactly a predictable pattern, but it has seemed that the weather forecasts lately have been all mixed up, and the skies have been really interesting.
Yesterday we set out to do some berry picking under a warm blue sky. By the time we arrived, we could see heavy dark clouds and long curtains of rain coming quickly toward us. We drove to a different location, the sun came out again and we got out to pick berries. Two more light rainshowers and a lot of hot sun later, we had gathered 2 cups of raspberries and 6 1/2 cups of blueberries.
I’m glad we didn’t bother going home again when we saw that raincloud. As they say: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!
Taken on July 29, 2010
A couple of days ago, heavy cloud and fog hung over the city. There was a severe thunderstorm watch, but little in the way of storm or rain all day. Then, in the late afternoon, the grey fog parted, and the sun shone through. And I looked up, and saw huge clouds, piled up to the heavens… so I went out to capture a few. And the rain held off until I was ready to head home again.
Taken on July 29, 2010
It was stormy here yesterday and the night before. I went out without my camera, and I wore my bright yellow raincoat. It had been raining hard, but when I got into the car, it stopped. The sky was constantly changing, with sudden sunny patches and dark clumps of drifting cloud. I could see a curtain of rain sweeping the horizon. I got out of the car and left my raincoat behind.
Taken on June 18, 2009
Recently I read that photographers — serious photographers, that is — avoid sunny days for fear of making their images look too much like postcards. It’s true that images I take with lovely blue skies tend to look less interesting than one with dramatic clouds. I think what makes the difference, though, is the light. On a blue sky day, the light is cold and clear, and the shadows are harsh. On a stormy day — like the morning I took this photo — the light has a yellow-pink cast to it that warms the whole scene. And on a rainy day, the colours are intense and everything shines and glitters. The challenge, of course, is to get outside and find these dramatic scenes when it’s so much nicer indoors.
Taken on November 11, 2009
There is diversity of life here in this wetland, wedged between the industrial park and Courtney Bay. The graceful curved wings of a great blue heron catch my eye as it flies to a fishing spot farther along the creek bed. There are ducks galore — mallards and shovellers and a pair of wigeons — and a scattering of yellowlegs probing the mud flats. On the far shore, a new sewage treatment facility is being built, and the shiny stacks of the oil refinery appear on the horizon. The rain squall that makes such a dramatic backdrop to this image reaches us a few minutes later, and we run back to the car. This is Saint John.
Taken on May 30, 2010