"Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in a forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers." ~T.S. Eliot
These days in Whitehorse, the sun rises at about 9:48 am and sets just before 4pm. That's 6 precious hours to cast a shadow. And the sun doesn't mess around. True, the dawns and dusks seem more lengthy, but the darkness always wins. I feel as though I am on a night shift, even though I have never worked one before.
The other morning, lying in bed, cocooned in a web of blankets and I thought about what changes I notice most about these colder days. My sweet cottage is a tiny castle….diminutive in size but large in charm. I love that it has a slant…cupboard doors swing open wildly, my studio chair is always wanting to roll away from the easel. It reminds me of quaint little cottages in Newfoundland. It only has two rooms, plus a small bathroom. It is all I need. It doesn't take you long in a small space to realise how much is superfluous. You become discerning out of necessity.
Dawn at Fish Lake a few weeks ago
In the mornings, in the dark, there are few sounds outside of my cottage. My bed is against two exterior walls, so it is quite refreshing when it is -30ºC. I huddle under my Hudson's Bay blanket and Icelandic throw picked up in Reykjavik. I hear cars driving slowly down the lane way behind the cottage, the snow protesting in strange, dry squeaks. My neighbour says foxes are fond of the lane way, which makes me happy, knowing they are out there padding around in their fluffy auburn raiment. As I drove along Robert Service Way paralleling the Yukon River there other day I saw a fox cross up ahead of me. Thankfully he stood still and regarded me as I drove past…this beautiful creature out in the freezing cold, just doing his thing. Lovely.
The windows of Rose Cottage have had a whole story of their own this past month as the cold has set in. I have moisture in my cottage that is forming elaborate ice formations, almost stalactites, inside my storm windows, and in the case of my bedroom window, which doesn't have a storm window, in my room. It's weird to see the ice there, not melting, even though my cottage is 17ºC. Outside the ice blooms into floral patterns, dancing horses, tendrils of icy, tiny leviathans, otherworldly plants. Watching them shift with the alternating temperature is like watching clouds pass overhead and forming them into stories.
When it gets below minus 25 the cold starts to do crazy things. Everything becomes more brittle. Even the water in our bodies starts to slow down and freeze…the pain of having exposed flesh sets in quickly. I have already begun stocking my car with emergency supplies, even though I don't want to drive too far out of town until I get snow tires.
Layers of light at Fish Lake
Sasha's coat is getting thicker by the day. I love that he is on this journey with me, adapting and learning about life up here in the North. The biggest bummer is the ice on the windows. While beautiful, it is an impediment for him as he loves watching the world go by. In a 450 square cottage, he can use all of the activity he can find. He is my constant companion...5,400km driven together across this great country of Canada. I am proud of him. A tiny trooper.
Mist rising off of the Yukon River at 9am last week...
The other day it was about -34ºC with the windchill. I saw light and mist rising off of the Yukon River. In a few minutes I had snapped a photo of a sun dog…my first! It is a beautiful phenomenon that I believe is specific to cold environments. It has to do with some sort of specific refraction of light…I think...it's a bit of magic undeniably.
The darkness is pervasive this time of year. It is new, and fun, and slightly intimidating. But I realized the other morning with some momentary clarity: when you are happy, no amount of darkness matters.