They say you should never start off a story by talking about the weather; true or not – I’ve never really understood the premise – I think there must be one exception to that rule: when the story is about the weather itself.
In that case, I could still be accused of being too “on point.” But so be it: because in Edmonton today, the weather was wonderful. Above-zero temperatures and six hours of solid sunlight in the middle of February? More please!
For those who do not know, Edmonton is north. Like, way up there in Alberta, half way to Alaska from everywhere else. We like to joke that we have four seasons: winter, just before winter, just after winter, and ‘winter’s coming’. It’s freezing here for seven months of the year, or so says the legend.
In truth, the weather here is just screwy. It once snowed in June, leading the Northern Pikes, of neighboring Saskatchewan, to name an album “Snow in June.” In February, the temperature usually hovers around -25 C, which for American readers is -13 F. The snowbanks are four feet high on the roadsides, the black ice on the road could sink the Titanic and periodically, Abominable Snowmen from the Canadian Plains known as “Wendigo” will swoop into the city and steal someone’s Chihuahua. Well, that or hungry coyotes.
In Summer – alt.indie.can.rock notwithstanding – it usually doesn’t snow and gets quite hot, up into the 30C-plus range, or about 95F. But in February, it’s usually cold enough to freeze your toes and your nose as soon as you step outdoors.
So today was a blessing, a slice of Indian Summer in and around the City of Champs, including my haunt in the delightfully charming suburban town of Beaumont. The pets were enjoying the back yard, as were my wife and I, sitting in a broad ray of sun that cut across our back step, warming the stone to the touch. The icicles on the upper storm gutters dripped methodically onto the brick below and our cat, who has been fighting cancer for a year, watched it all with a detached bemusement from atop a two-inch thick fence line, a feat of either amazing balance and pose or immense stubbornness.
Knowing the cat, it could have been either.
In all, as I said, it was marvelous. But trust the dichotomous nature of human existence to ensure that there are two sides, even to such idyllic circumstances.
The first side is obvious, the good side; to enjoy a sunny day is to revel in the distraction its comfort provides, to separate from stress and worry, to relax in the wonderful glow, the orange hue that protrudes like a soft backdrop over back fences and yards. It’s a chance to stretch out and run your toes through the cool grass – or in Edmonton’s case today, along the emerging patio or deck; and, without a doubt, it’s an excuse to share a sacramental glass or two of wine or beer -- which is, in truth, pretty much how we deal with the rest of winter, too.
Sunny weather is hallowed in song, carved into cave walls millennia old, a cure-all for everything from vitamin-d deficiency to the working man’s blues. One of my favorite writers, John Steinbeck, once managed to both praise summer and provide solace to winter in the same paragraph, asking “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
So when we get a day like today, we appreciate it that much more because it comes in the middle of winter. We appreciate the sound of kids laughing and playing in the neighborhood, and the wind blowing warmly through the leafless tree branches and the flourishing evergreens alike.
Ah, but as I said, there are two sides to it. We appreciate a warm day for all its endless distractions … but when you own two large dogs, as my wife and I do, a warm day also means their mountain of poop has unfrozen in the backyard and been uncovered from under the top layer of snow … and we have to pick it up.
There’s probably a broader analogy and lesson in this, but I’m too busy holding my nose right now to figure it out.