The Frozen 31 Post Show

A business lady charges down the sidewalk, her wristwatch tick-tocking the seconds she’s late for her morning meeting. She brushes past someone on the street, but doesn’t notice. He stands there with his hands in his pockets – just passing the hours away – trying to keep his fingers warm. They are two sides of a coin and that coin isn’t a nickel or a quarter, but time. One doesn’t have enough and the other, too much.

While I had intended for a part of this challenge to show a tiny glimpse into the time that the homeless have no choice but to be outside during the northern Yellowknife winter, it didn’t quite become what I had hoped. Instead, I was more caught up with the typical office employee’s struggle to make the time to be outside. While I won’t pretend that I came even close to experiencing my time like the homeless might, I did begin to think about things I normally hadn’t before:

Where do you go when you have nowhere to go? What do you do when you have nothing to do? Where do you sit when there aren’t any benches free from the drifting snowbanks? What do you think about when all you’re doing is waiting for the minutes to pass? How do you feel when you watch the city moving around you?

I began to understand why the Frame Lake Trail was popular. It’s a public place they can be and it provides something to do: walk. I spent most of the challenge alone and so I, like many of them, walked. At first my feet hurt, but then I got used to it. The worst was sitting somewhere. People would pass by as I sat cold, alone, going nowhere, and doing nothing. I felt out-of-place, uncomfortable. I felt in the way. I felt I could be asked to leave at any point, no matter where I happened to be sitting.

Yet, it felt wonderful to be outside so much. Unsurprisingly, it was the most enjoyable when I was with others playing hockey, roaming around, exploring, and taking in outdoor events. While winter can certainly coop a person up easily, it makes a big difference to say “screw it” to the cold and the dark and breathe in that fresh air while getting your body moving. This March was also not the billowing rager I had expected and prepared for. Last year the -40s stuck through the whole month with scathing winds so I had expected the same of this year, but was pleasantly surprised with just how tame it was. The mild weather was another factor that also made it easier to get outside.

Overall, I’d say that by taking part in this challenge, I was given an opportunity to view the city around me with a different lens. There is so much going on in a person’s immediate surroundings that they don’t consider in any way other than as how it relates to them. I think we miss a lot this way. Too often, we don’t even try to see other perspectives or what the tiniest of details may mean to someone else because it doesn’t have an impact on us. I would also say that those who work full-time indoors have to make a commitment to themselves to go outside. Without the commitment, it’s easy to let excuses take over while you start to become one with the couch in front of the old boob tube.

And that wraps up The Frozen 31: Success. Stay tuned for the next challenge and, as always, feel free to send me any ideas you’d like to see me try!

Nikki

(Also, I’m  offering up a big apology to any avid readers for the nearly month-long lapse between the challenge’s conclusion and this post. I’ve been on the road most of April and consistently untethered to technology. Which is sometimes a great thing.)

Advertisements

Frozen Day 30: The Bench Hunting Photo Run Down

I dedicated one of my previous 30 days to bench hunting.

It’s no easy task. Sure, you’re used to seeing parks and streets full of places to plunk down, but when it’s a game of hide and seek in the middle of the winter, damned if some of those benches haven’t just gone up and straight-away disappeared.

Everywhere I had gone it seemed that there were no benches primed for me to adorn with my butt. So I set out to sleuth what the real situation was. I did find plenty of benches: ones with no back rests, metal ones, wooden ones, ones set way out along the far reaches of pathways, ones lining the downtown streets, ones sitting in the park, and ones you’d miss unless you were a skilled bench hunter. But this was about more than just finding the benches. It was about finding ones that could actually be useful for more than holding a bank of snow.

The most abysmal one, which I didn’t even get a photo of, was along the sidewalk in front of the Shopper’s Drug Mart’s parking lot. That poor sucker was covered in snow, then doused with exhaust and wind whipped until it looked like a filthy mountain glacier. Although I found a significant amount of unsuitable rump resting places, there were still benches that one could have decorated with their derrière. So my little Bench Hunting Photo Run Down isn’t an accurate depiction of the smattering of seats in Yellowknife, but I can tell you that I did learn that there aren’t that many benches that are snow-free or accessible.

One of the things this made me think about was how people who have nowhere to go can’t even just sit still for a while unless they find one of the few suitable benches or just give up and plunk themselves into a snow bank. Not everyone is on the move. Those who don’t have somewhere to go should be able to at least sit down – they already don’t have much and in the winter, they’re barely even given the opportunity to do this one simple thing that most people probably haven’t even considered unless they remove the snow themselves or traipse through it to a clear bench. In a way, it seems analogous to the City’s decision to remove benches from outside the post office.

Snowy BenchIMG_0051

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0049IMG_0047

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0046IMG_0045

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0044IMG_0043

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0042IMG_0039

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Days 26-29: Going Out With A Bang

Temperature (*C): -7 (26th) -0.1 (27th) 1.2/-7.3 (28th afternoon/evening) -10/-4 (29th morning/afternoon)

Feels Like: -14 (26th) -4 (27th) -13 (28th evening) -15/-7 (29th morning/afternoon)

Wind (Km/hr): S19 (26th) S11 (27th) NNW 26/NNE 14 (28th afternoon/evening) NE9/S6 (29th morning/afternoon)

I couldn’t help it.

The sun was shining bright, the snow was melting and the steady sound of water running from roofs could be heard everywhere I went. My winter jacket was too heavy, too warm, too wintry-like. I forewent mitts and long johns while I worked outside. I began sweating. Despite all of this, I knew it was still too soon, but… I couldn’t help it:

When I returned home I did the one thing I do every year to celebrate the spring. I bought a six pack of Corona and limes. Then I went onto my patio in a light sweater and socks, popped the top, squeezed the lime, and said goodbye to winter.

The entire weekend stood in stark contrast to this exact weekend one year ago. It was Long John Jamboree and last year I’d steal an hour here or an hour there before the -40 degree weather forced me to seek refuge back at home. This year, however, I wore runners and a sweater. The weather hovered right around 0 and it wasn’t until I had spent nearly 5 hours enjoying the jamboree and the only open patio in the north that the chill began to take over.

This weekend was amazing. It felt absolutely incredible to spend almost all of it outside soaking up the fresh air and the warm sunshine, surrounded by people having fun. I spent Sunday just as long outside, playing in a pond hockey tournament all day. Hockey, beer, and burgers – a marvelous combination made all the better by the weather and the atmosphere. Sunday evening, as I finally went inside with the day and the action-packed weekend winding down, I added up all my time and realized I finished with 3 extra hours and 2 days early. What a wild weekend to say the least. And I don’t think I could have ended the challenge in a better way. I even have a pinkish tinge to my nose.

Time: 12:30-1:24, 5:05-6:20(26th) 1:30-2:50(27th) 1:30-5:40, 8:35-11:05(28th) 9:56-4:32(29th)

Today’s Minutes: 999

Total Challenge Minutes: 3908/3720

Ahead/Behind: Ahead by 188 minutes

Frozen Days 23-25: A Mother’s Wrath

Temperature (*C): -5.1 and -10(23rd) -8.9 (24th) -13.1 (25

Feels Like: -9 and – 15 (23rd) -11 (24th) -16 (25th)

Wind: ENE 8km/hr and NE 7/hr (23rd) E 4/hr (24th) NNE 4/hr (25th)

There’s something going on up here. All of the people can feel it and as we pass by one another we give off little nods and our lips bend with slight crookedness. We all know what each one of us is thinking, but no dares to speak out loud and certainly not with conviction. There are whispers here and there, but when they start to get a little louder we avert our eyes and scuttle away. We wouldn’t want our hopes to incite the wrath of Mother Nature.

“This might be it,” the whisper floats across the air before you.

“It feels… it feels like… spring.” The last word puffs into existence with breathy awe and once it’s out there, there’s no way to snatch it back and stuff it in your pocket.

Mother Nature knows.

And that’s a scary thing. Though she often smiles upon us, she can be very, very cruel. She likes to wait until we think the coast is clear and then leap out in an explosion of frozen ice, hard snow, and billowing cold. Surprise! she shrieks, her words spitting hard pellets of snow like machine gun bullets.

She gets us nearly every time.

So we try to pretend that thoughts of warm, sunny days aren’t taking over or that we’re starting to consider that winter may actually be coming to an end. So long as we don’t fall for it, maybe, just maybe what comes after winter may actually arrive without one last massacre. Yet, right now, I can feel myself falling for her tricks, because it is just so inconceivably beautiful out there right now.

Time: 12:31 – 1:27 and 5:15 – 6:35 (23rd) 5:01 – 6:30 (24th) 12:30 – 1:20 (25th)

Today’s Minutes: 219

Total Challenge Minutes: 2909/3720

Ahead/Behind: -91

Frozen Days 19-22: Putting Time in the Snowbank

Temperature: -18 degrees Celsius (19th) -15 (21st) -7.1 (22nd)

Feels Like: -23 degrees Celsius (19th) -21 (21st) -12 (22nd)

Wind: NNE 5 km/hr (19th) S 7km/hr (21st) SE10 km/hr (22nd)

There’s something that happens when you trade up concrete sidewalks lined by roadways and buildings for the path set along a lake’s edge or winding through the trees. The people are friendlier. You’re no longer just another hooded Canada Goose jacket – you are someone they have something in common with. You are a comrade with nature! A lover of the great outdoors!! An intrepid explorer becoming one with the universe!!! You boldly step away from the concrete and choose the path less commercial, the one that winds and meanders, that brings you into an uncompromised, unbroken world.

And those people on that pathway with you, when you pass them by, they lift their mitten in salutation because they understand this. They look into your eyes and say hello because, off the sidewalks, you are not just a cog in the machine, you are someone. Your journey is more often than not also your destination. Just like it is theirs.

Maybe. Or maybe I’m just projecting…

Regardless, consider this little ole idea: if the above has somewhat of an element of truth beneath its romantic, aggrandizing structure then think of what it’s like to cross paths with someone where there is no path at all, just wonderful, bountiful trees and rocks and dirt and birds and life all around. You’d probably fall in love right then and there, right? No? That’s just me?

Alright, great proclamations aside, the weather has been a real treat. I might even dare to whisper that spring may truly be on the horizon. This weekend was particularly nice and I had some company with my playtime outside which was another nice treat. After a 2 hour walk, she comments on the weather and I reply that it has been this nice all week. She didn’t even know. That’s the office dweller’s plight right there. You’re locked up inside plugging away until the day passes and then you have to hurry home to get some food in your belly and run your errands and all of a sudden that alarm clock is ringing and you’re on your way to work again. You have to make a real, concerted effort to get outside time and it’s worth it. The sun on your face, the air in your lungs, the sights before your eyes, the thoughts in your head – it’s all worth it.

Time: 1:06 – 2:05; 5:07-6:28 (19th) 11:05 -1:40; 3:30 – 4:45 (21st) 1:30 – 3:55 (22nd)

Today’s Minutes: 515

Total Challenge Minutes: 2690/3720

Ahead/Behind: +50

Frozen Day 18: A Horror-ific Chill

Temperature: -11 degrees Celsius (After work) and -16.2 (Evening)

Feels Like: -16 degrees Celsius and -21

Wind: NE 8 km/hr and NNE 17 km/hr

In the middle of the night, I woke with shivers. The cold had curled right around my bones, like a snake, and squeezed the warmth wholly out of them. It’s not that it was particularly cold outside today, rather it was that I spent 4 hours out there.

It had actually felt quite warm and I had to remove my mittens during the after-work walk; however, not long after that I spent a nice chunk of time in the ice castle. Though the weather had seemed like something to scoff at, it wasn’t long before my toes were too cold to gain any warmth just by curling them. The event at the snow castle was the film festival Dead North and so I couldn’t count on dancing to keep me warm. By the end of the evening there was a deep chill in my body, though that may have partly been due to the fact that I had just watched a series of really fantastic horror shorts. (All of the films were created by northerners in a 9 week span and the results were amazing, so I simply had to plug that. You can check out most of the films here.)

Each time I attend an event at the snow castle, it’s incredibly fun and it really helps me get those outdoor hours in. The thing that keeps nagging at me is that I’m having too much fun. I had originally wrote that this is an office worker’s challenge to make outdoor time and in that I am succeeding; however, I also wrote that I hoped to give people a window of perspective to look into so that they could consider how different all this time outside is for the homeless.

People with no homes and no money aren’t spending their time dancing in the snow castle or taking long introspective walks or being entertained. So, this is where I diverge from what I had originally hoped to show. Although I had never intended to try to portray what time on the streets for the homeless is like, I had wanted to use my experience to plant the seeds of reflection in your mind on what that experience might be like. Of this, I’m not confident that I am succeeding. During my long solo walks – perhaps, but when I am playing outside – I’m not so sure.

With that in mind, I’d like to leave you with one final thought for today. After just 4 hours outside, I couldn’t warm up most of the night. My skin was cold and I had to wear heavier clothing to sleep. Sure, if I had spent more of that time moving, it wouldn’t have given me such a deep chill, but that still doesn’t detract from the point: those on the streets spend much more time out there every day and they’re not keeping their bodies moving the entire time either.

Time: 5:10P – 6:32P and 7:47P – 10:28P

Today’s Minutes: 243

Total Challenge Minutes: 2175/3720

Ahead/Behind: +15

Frozen Days 16-17: The Lonely Bench

Temperature: -18.9 degrees Celsius (16th) and -15.9 (17th)

Feels Like: -27 degrees Celsius (16th) and -25 (17th)

Wind: WNW 13 km/hr (16th) ENE 17 km/hr (17th)

It’s midday and there’s no one around. Great puffs of hardened snow are piled up around me as I sit on one of the few accessible benches in the city. It was quite the find alright – especially since almost all of the other benches scattered throughout the city have been overtaken by piles of snow. The wind tears across my face, but I bear the sting because I have nowhere else to go. I feel out of place because I am loitering. There is nothing to watch – no birds in the sky or water lapping at the shoreline or people playing in the park. I imagine the people in the buildings of downtown looking out the window and thinking there is something odd about the person who is just sitting there, still and purposeless. I imagine they can tell that I’m not waiting for anyone, that I am alone, and that I have nowhere to be and nothing to do but let the time pass. Which it does. I eventually stand up and walk away having done nothing but scratch my mitts against an asteroid-shaped chunk of snow. The cold has seeped past my protective layer of clothing and I am chilled. My face is a mottled burgundy. But as I leave, I place that chunk of snow on the bench. Although imperfect and rough around the edges, it is shaped like a heart. Perhaps, for someone who finds themselves at The Lonely Bench, that is something after all.

Time: 2:32P – 3:46 (16th) 12:45P – 2:06P (17th)

Today’s Minutes: 74 + 81 = 155

Total Challenge Minutes: 1932/3720

Ahead/Behind: -108