Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Very Early Spring

We were going shopping this afternoon, at one degree below zero with an aggressive wind, and the lady, my better three-quarters, was hatless for chrissake, hatless! simply because the hat she was wearing was a dark blue with a turquoise trim and it didn’t go with her ensemble which was something or other that didn’t go with blue and turquoise, which also don’t go that well together at the best of times.

Bet on it, the Inuit know about “early spring”

Further to walking in the early spring, you would think that after more than half a century of Canadian winter — because that’s what it is; “Spring” is just a euphemism — you would know how to dress. Hats, certainly. Gloves: Forget dress gloves, you wear mitten gauntlets. Shoes: Stout, to protect you against the cold pavements. Scarves to protect you against the wind. That’s it; dress like that and you’ll laugh at winter … er, early spring.

Yet, every year, my hands drop off in the cold, and my hat isn’t sufficient, my shoes are the wrong shoes, and I don’t know what a scarf is … and every early spring I’m reminded.


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February thaw. Fingers of dirty snow draw back across the lawn, withdrawing from the street as if contact with the cement was painful. In addition to the litter that rises up from the snow, there is the Sahara of sand. Many people are not keen on salting their paths against the winter ice. “Salt stains the brickwork,” they say, and lay down great deserts of sand instead.

I wonder what these people gain. I have used salt for years, and my path in summer is unstained; you could eat off it; and the stones in my path have, over the years, acquired an attractive patina, a weathered beauty, that pleases me.

At home with the Sahara desert. There isn’t this much sand on my driveway, but it’s pretty close.

I think the attraction that sand has — and I use it myself occasionally for this very reason — is that it provides instant non-slip traction without obliging you to look for a tool of some kind to break up the ice. Admit it, you really don’t want to leave the warm comfort of your living room, do you? Outdoor activity is good, but indoor sloth is better.

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Winter Theatre

When we arrived at the Firehall Theatre — at 10:00 a.m. — a major snowstorm was approaching our small town. Within less than an hour the winds were howling around the three-storey building. The violent clouds of snow raced horizontally past the windows, moaning along the eaves and rolling wildly across adjoining rooftops. Below, along the sidewalks, pedestrians staggered by, stumbling, struggling against the force of the wind. Beneath us, just out of the picture to the left, through the blowing snow we could see the vague outlines of the parking lot, soon (but not soon enough) to be taken over by the Farmers’ Market. In summer the farmers’ stalls will display their fruit and vegetables, but now both farmers and stalls were frozen memories, dreams buried under the mounting drifts of snow.

The Firehall Theatre in winter

The Firehall Theatre building dates back to the mid-19th century, when it was a fire hall, with real horses, and the distance to the farthest fire was measured in yards not miles. The walls are ancient brick; there is a single pane of glass in the wooden windows; and between window and wall the passage of time has created a space open to the weather. (If there were a fire, you could slip through the space and leap to safety — three floors below.) By lunchtime there were piles of snow on the floor beneath each window (on the inside).

By early afternoon there was an icy aura in the rooms that reminded me of my time in the Arctic. I found I had no feeling in my feet, and all my fingers had turned white.

But we paid no attention. We were happy. We were a part, a vital passionate part of … The Theatre! We brought life to the playwright’s words, we breathed greasepaint, we were a vibrant team, a single living entity. Okay, we were slowly freezing to death, but, ach, it’s a small price to pay for one’s art.

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Cruel Winter

Okay, open your eyes. Admit it: Winter is here, roughly ramming Standard Time down our throats “weather” we like it or not (oh, great pun, Al, great pun). One day the afternoons are somewhat darker, then — zap! — they’re blacker than a yard up a chimney.

Everything seems sharper, both visually and meteorologically. Ice-blue skies, and winds that slice your cheeks thinner than prosciutto. Every gust seems like a handful of razor blades flung in your face.

A sharpness, waxing, waning, in the air;

There is a distant depth to darkening sky;

Strange stereopticon of passersby,

In vivid chiaroscuro hurrying there.

The streets, too, have changed, as have the people who use them.

Pedestrians, without a smile to spare,

All hunched and pinched, with rigid shoulders high.

No mini-skirts of summer catch the eye;

Sweet summer bums avoid the thoroughfare.

Every season has its own feel, its own ambiance, and most of them are pleasant in varying degrees. But winter?

Looks like a bad-hair day.

Must Winter’s hand be bare, and O so cruel?

And spread its bitter darkness everywhere?

Gay Summer’s always fair, a sunlit jewel;

Wears golden gowns, and flowers in her hair.

I’m all for summer wear, so as a rule

I’ll pass on snow, and emulate the bear.

Hang in there. Winter is the longest season, six months more or less. It just seems longer. So don’t hold your breath. This, too, shall pass.

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Waiting Winter

For most of us winter’s early days leave a lot to be desired. Very difficult to feel positive when the mercury drops out of the bottom of the thermometer. In one sense colds and runny noses are a thing of the past: When it’s 20 below, noses don’t run.

By now we have all said a sad goodbye to summer, and wonder with a painful nostalgia if it will ever return. You’d think, as a Canadian, I would get used to the annual arrival of winter and all its disadvantages. But getting used to winter is like getting used to losing the lottery: There’s nothing you can do about it, but it hurts just the same.

November afternoon, sharp white and clear;

Once-hopeful Summer sings her sad refrain.

Hard-edged, the sky attends the waning year,

While Summer’s final sun does shine in vain.

Its light, worn thin, hangs limply in our lane;

Its shallow golden rays expect to die,

By dark November’s restless waking slain;

And eager Winter’s waiting in the sky.

The memories of Summer’s warmth are dear,

But heavy skies now bear young Winter’s stain;

As grim horizons ponder, drawing near,

A chill forbidding blue unfolds its train.

Lamented, Summer passes once again;

With one last morning sun it says goodbye,

And tries once more to ease our parting’s pain,

While Winter waits and watches from the sky.

I’m not the only one to mourn summer’s passing. Do I hear your voice, too, in the chorus of dismay? Or are you too busy getting out your skis, and gassing up the skidoo? Hmmph. The world is full of weirdos.

Are you a squirrel fan? No? Most people with lawns aren’t, and having a lawn I can’t help but agree. But winter is a bad time for them, too.

The squirrels’ rooftop feet, like leaves, I hear:

My attic calls, secure from wind and rain.

November’s winds the squirrels know and fear;

It’s time for winter food, warm leaves new-lain,

Not naked sky, now Winter’s hard domain.

Aggressive blue, so cold, deep dark and high;

Ice-blue, winds scream beyond my windowpane,

And there! White Winter marches ’cross the sky.

Triumphant now, bold Winter’s icy reign

Becomes benign; around, soft snowbanks lie;

Yule lights, and laughter, now ring down my lane,

And squirrels sleep ’neath Winter’s friendly sky.


To the optimist this look at winter ends on a positive note. But the realist nods, as if in agreement, but I think he is simply avoiding an irritating confrontation he might have difficulty winning. But nevertheless, the realist and I are one: it’s tough to think positively at 20 below when your nose can’t run.

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Coming Winter

What irritates me, more than anything else, is winter’s arrogance. If you’ve had a martinet for a father you’d know what I mean. With never a by-your-leave, not even a curt nod, young winter struts across the land that just last week, it seems, was summer’s playground. Lot of gall, if you ask me. Okay, the bitterest part — because we all have egos, don’t we — the bitterest part is: There’s not a single thing you can do about it.


The early north wind sneers, and rarely grieves.

Fed to the teeth with summer sun

And summer’s sweet green leaves,

He shakes them till their colors run

And sends the leaves a-scuttling in my eaves.

The shape of winter *


How like Winter’s youth to be so stern,

And, thoughtless, elbow fall aside

And end sad autumn’s turn.

Like me, awash in careless pride

When young, I’d laugh, and all my bridges burn.

All we can do is look ahead, because — trust me — Time changes all things. As the Chinese philosopher reminds us: This, too, shall pass, and summer will once again reinstate its dominion over the land. And not a moment too soon, so far as I’m concerned.

And also how like me old Winter grows,

When he at last his course has run

And bows to Spring’s red rose.

All arrogance he’ll meekly shun,

And leave the stage where Summer gaily goes.


Who’s going to throw it? * *

But all this takes time, something I don’t have much of (and don’t remind me about the use of prepositions). Yet, sadly, and inevitably, old winter has that all-important ace up his sleeve: He’ll be back.

Indifferent then, he’ll go; not think of me.

He’s sure that he’ll be back next year.

Will I be there to see?

When next he comes…will I be here?

To laugh with him and Summer, just we three?

Good question. But I’m not so sure I like the implied answer.


* Photo:  Andreas Tille

* * Photo:  Kamyar Adl

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Late Autumn

Where, Oh where, has summer gone?! No longer here, that’s for sure. Feel like a swim? Go to the YMCA.

The lake seems colder now.

Cool refreshing whites are brooding greys; the blues of summer are October’s indigo, and tell us that winter’s wind is just around the corner, a corner few of us want to turn.

And the lake is not the only harbinger of the November-February period. The very trees themselves are already telling us; the summer branches that once whispered in a friendly fashion now knock loudly all night long, and send their leaves along the streets in noisy clouds.

“Autumn Leaves” by J. E. Millais (1856)


They’ve changed from summer green to autumn red,

And now October’s wind invades their bed,

With lustful fingers strokes their willing stems;

They gasp, and rustling lift their golden hems;

His promises at night they know he’ll keep,

And then, with joy, they fall: their final sleep.

But other leaves reject the wind’s advances,

Keep their stems crossed, firm against romances.

Dull green, still holding fast to rectitude,

Yet still they sense a change in attitude.

The wind at eventide will softly call;

The leaves, then, blushing red with lust, will fall.

I watch his rough hands confidently seize

Their throbbing colours, whisk them through the trees,

And having used them, fling them o’er the street.

I hear them softly sighing ’neath my feet.

Now-agèd leaves: they once wore genteel green,

And in their youth was passion never seen.

They graced their trees like proper leaves, well bred;

Sedate; no dreams of love; no thoughts of bed

Or other racy deals the wind suggests.

Yet yesterday he stripped them of their vests,

Their fading summer vests of green once bright.

Autumn’s multi-coloured palette. *


He paints the erring leaves, to their delight,

With autumn’s thick orgasmic brush; each hue

A hint of golden summer’s residue.

Flame red, and orange fires; weak fainting leaves:

They hear his promises, and each believes.

And then the dark October wind, and they,

Do wildly dance away the final day.

In a sense I’m sad to see them go. I remember their younger days last summer. Sweet green — not a touch of brown or red — so full of life, a life now so quickly past. Sad, yes, and doubly so; so similar to me, and the analogy troubles me.

The leaves and I now share a common state:

’Tis fall for them, the same that I await.

We each have coursed our given span, and now,

With twilight falling, make our final bow.

And then! like leaves, enchanted, blind to Fate,

My geriatric heartbeats reinstate

… like leaves, as dust. * *


My love of youth! — young girls, so tall and fair;

October-coloured, too, their lips and hair.

The morning girls set evening feet to dance;

My role’s reversed! October’s in their glance!

’Tis I, the ancient leaf, that spins with lust;

Will find his place at last, like leaves, as dust.

And there’s the icy lake, if I needed a reminder, telling me that at least one more winter awaits. But I’ll wait, too; so long as my furnace doesn’t give me a hard time, I’ll be here to welcome summer once again.


* Photo: 松岡明芳

* * Photo: R. Halim

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