Frozen Days 13-15: Dancing the Time Away

Temperature: -10.3 degrees Celsius (13th) -18.2 (14th) and -27.2 (15th)

Feels Like: -17 degrees Celsius (13th) -32 (14th) and -39 (15th)

Wind: SE 16 km/hr (13th) NNW 41 km/hr (14th) and NW 17 km/hr (15th)

Snow Castle

The Snow Castle on Yellowknife Bay

Those sneaky winds have been laying low all March, but this weekend they finally made their move. What had been forecast as a gloriously marvelous sunny day on Saturday was just simply not to be. Originally it was set to be just one negative degree away from zero, and let’s get real here – that means it’s a flip-flops and shorts kind of day.

Snow Scrulptures

Snow Sculptures

Now, the day itself was full of bright sunshine, but that was just another mean trick Mother Nature played to get my hopes up. Upon stepping outside and away from the protection of the building, those winds instantly berated my poor, tender cheeks and what was once a glimpse of summer’s dawn became the midnight hour of another winter’s night.

Line Up to the Snow Slide

Waiting For A Wild Ride

So thank goodness for the trusty snow castle. I spent Saturday night dancing away to the tunes of Old Town Mondays, Gordie Tentrees and Ryan McNally and his rockabilly band. The castle walls kept that wind at bay and all the tunes kept my body grooving so I’m going to say that I managed to put one over on the spiteful side of Mother Nature. She can’t help it, you know. We all take a turn for the worse after a long winter.

Going down the snow slide

Away She Goes!

So here’s to another day and the coming spring! Unfortunately, that is also known as second winter.

Snow Castle

View From the Top

I also got to take in the delicious Sugar Shack Brunch put on by L’Association de Franco-culturelle on Sunday morning.


Time: 1:00P – 1:37P (13th) 9:16P -12:28A (14th) and 9:48A – 11:03A (15th)

Today’s Minutes: 37 + 192 + 75 = 304

Total Challenge Minutes: 1777/3720

Ahead/Behind: -23


Frozen Day 12: Let’s Talk Mileage

Temperature: -16.3 degrees Celsius

Feels Like: -24 degrees Celsius

Wind: ESE 12 km/hr

Fueled by pizza and beer, this self-propelling machine has been racking up the miles.

Let me break it down for you a bit. Almost all of my outdoor time is spent walking. So I did some google mapping and got an idea of how far my average walks have been and then compared that with the time I spent covering the distance. I’m absolutely average. I walk about 5 kilometers in an hour, so each day I’m putting in about 10 kilometers. Each day. That’s 70 kilometers in a week.

I’m all about accurate representation so I would have to say it’s probably closer to 60 or 65 since I’m not always walking. There’s music concerts and pond hockey and bench reflections and so on as well. Now, my companion is training for a marathon that’s coming up in April and has been hitting the treadmill hard. But I still clock more kilometers in a week.

It was an interesting thing to realize, but is in no way as remotely awesome as running a marathon or training for one. So I’m going to leave it at that: just one interesting fact for the day.

Time: 12:34 pm – 1:21 pm and 5:04 pm – 6:31 pm

Today’s Minutes: 133

Total Challenge Minutes: 1473/3720

Ahead/Behind: +33 minutes

Frozen Day 11: The Music of Great Slave Lake

Temperature: -23 degrees Celsius

Feels Like: -31 degrees Celsius

Wind: ENE 10 km/hr

The sound of a rainstorm fills my ears, like when I was young and used to sit next to the open kitchen window while gigantic raindrops pelted our front porch patio after a long, dry spell. A petrichor fragrance almost seems to rise up out of the dull smattering, but then I am back in the moment and the rain isn’t really rain; it’s the sound of a sea of mittens clapping, trying to draw Terje Isungset out onto the snow castle stage.

The castle is packed wall to wall to wall with people, shifting their weight from foot to foot in an attempt to keep their toes from freezing. Their breath puffs out in long, excited streams of frozen air and then, after a long wait, we are all rewarded. The musician steps onto the stage and begins to play the ice of Great Slave Lake. 

Simple notes ring out as he drums his hands and fingers along large pieces of ice and I can feel that simplicity more than anything. A woman’s voice accompanies the sound and the combination is ethereal, yet beautiful. The castle is silent, but for their sounds and, like the instruments themselves, it takes me away to where there is nothing but nature. He moves around the stage, creating sounds from crushing ice, tapping ice blocks – each releasing their own unique music – and blowing through ice-sculptured horns with frozen lips.

“The instruments belong to you, to Yellowknife, to nature,” he says between songs and when the night comes to an end, he lifts each instrument into the air and passes it to the crowd, giving it back to this place. It’s a remarkable sight to see someone so easily let go of their creation, to accept the transient nature of the tools that give them their life, to fully believe that nature is the true owner of all things.


As I leave to go home, the chill has set in my bones but it feels quite alright. I can’t think of a better way to finally be ahead in the Frozen 31 Challenge than by listening to the frozen whispers of Great Slave Lake ring out amongst a crowd of Yellowknifers between the snow castle’s walls.

Time: 11:59 am – 1:01 pm and 7:41 pm – 9:45 pm

Today’s Minutes: 186

Total Challenge Minutes: 1340/3720

Ahead/Behind: +20 minutes

Frozen Day 10: Walking Life

Temperature: -18.7 degrees Celsius

Feels Like: -27 degrees Celsius

Wind: NW 13 km/hr

I forewent the mid-day, lunch-break, after-noon trudge today and banked my time after work instead. I crossed lakes, I sat in parks, I laid tread to sidewalk, I hiked snow-covered trails, I took wrong turns, and I even stopped and back-tracked. This was all just two hours.

The more my feet move, the more I explore, the more ground I cover, and the more paths I cross, well, the more each moment outside adds to what is turning out to be an extended metaphor for my life.

We follow paths most of the time whether they are well-groomed or not much more than a set of boot prints in the snow. Sometimes, the ice catches us off-guard and we slip; other times we fall. Sometimes we walk sure-footed and confident while sometimes we take baby steps with our arms out like airplane wings. Sometimes the journey is long, sometimes it’s short. Sometimes we take wrong turns and try to bullheadedly make it work. And sometimes it does work, but most of the time it doesn’t. Sometimes we have to just stop where we are, even if it is nowhere, shrug our shoulders and turn back. And sometimes that’s okay. There is no guarantee that the path less traveled will be more rewarding, but neither is the alternative. We will all make mistakes with the direction we choose, but we’ll always end up where we need to be so long as we keep trudging along. Our way may be filled with crazy turns or dead ends, but we’re getting somewhere. Even if that somewhere is back to where we came from. After all, sometimes we head off into the great wide open searching for something only to realize we just left it behind.

Now, sometimes we need a break. Other times we need to just be still for a while. Sometimes we focus too much on the end and not enough on the moment. Sometimes we take it all for granted and sometimes we realize everything is fleeting – from the snow beneath our feet to the lives that have interwoven with ours. And, perhaps, sometimes we over think things way too much. But then again, maybe sometimes we don’t think enough.

Time: 5:19 pm – 7:15 pm

Today’s Minutes: 116

Total Challenge Minutes: 1154/3720

Ahead/Behind: -46 minutes

Frozen Day 9: When The Streets Run Out

Temperature: -11.2 degrees Celsius

Feels Like: -19 degrees Celsius

Wind: N 17 km/hr

It feels like I’m going in circles. Oh wait. I am. There are a few things out there that feel unproductive – like washing your car in the rain or, you know, just generally being on facebook – but one thing that feels unproductive to me is backtracking. Why not see more than you already have? Go farther, see new things, explore? Sure, the distance and time will add up to the same thing, but the experience will be far different.

Unfortunately, in a small city, those loops are about to become redundant. I’ve already walked all over downtown with a few routes crossing into other parts of the city. Given that my starting points are always either home or the office, I’m taking some fairly regular routes already even without backtracking. The familiarity is lessening the initial excitement of spending so much time with the streets of Yellowknife.

This challenge isn’t about walking though. The walking is just something to do to pass the time and, already, boredom is seeping in. Not because there isn’t an abundance of outdoor activities, but because I am trying to snatch an hour here and an hour there each day as opposed to an afternoon of skiing or playing hockey.

This all leads me to this question: what is it like for the homeless?

When I spend time outside it’s usually because of an event or an activity – even if that activity is just going for a walk. For the homeless it’s because they have to. So when you take away the purpose of being outside, what are you left with?

As I’ve said before, I am not an authority on homelessness, so rather than offering up paltry explanations or attempts to answer these questions, I’m going to leave them open-ended for you to think about. Try going outside with no activity or event or even a book or anything and staying out there for a long while. That still isn’t comparable, but perhaps it will offer a new perspective.

When the streets run out and it is just you and all you have is time, can you imagine what that feels like?

Time: 1 pm – 2 pm and 5:16 pm – 6:15 pm

Today’s Minutes: 119

Total Challenge Minutes: 1038/3720

Ahead/Behind: -42 minutes

Frozen Day 8: Beautiful

Temperature: -8.4 degrees Celsius

Feels Like: -12 degrees Celsius

Wind: S 7 km/hr

I have to admit this was not the March I was expecting. Last year, while the rest of the country was preparing for April’s showers, us northerners were still dealing with runny noses, frozen toes and touque-hair. This year, however, is significantly warmer. I wore snow pants today and it was just shy of completely unnecessary. They became necessary only at one point – when I plopped myself into a snow bank and just laid there looking at the sky and watching people cross a lake on foot, ski, and snowmobile.

Really, today can be summed up with one word: beautiful. Now most people, after saying such a sentence, will go off on paragraph after paragraph as to what that beauty is, thus making it moot that it could actually be summed up with a single word. Not me. I’ll leave you with the word and a single picture. Until tomorrow! Well, actually until later today since I’m also behind on putting my daily posts up.


Time: 3:26 pm – 6:15 pm (minus 10 minutes inside grocery store)

Today’s Minutes: 159

Total Challenge Minutes: 919/3720

Ahead/Behind: -41 minutes

Frozen Day 7: Seeing Louie

Temperature: -8.5 degrees Celsius (afternoon) and -16.3 (evening)

Feels Like: -14 degrees Celsius (afternoon) and -24 (evening)

Wind: WSW 13 km/hr (afternoon) and ESE 12 km/hr (evening)

In the darkness, you feel the cool air brushing your face. Initially, it’s refreshing, but after hours outside numbness seeps into your limbs. You hair frosts over and a perpetual drip runs from your nose. You wouldn’t say that you’re cold because the only way to realize that is to warm up. Only then, as your skin and muscles increase in temperature, do you feel the deep, bone-aching chill that you won’t be able to shake for some time. But then, that is only if you have the opportunity to warm up.

Tonight I met Louie. He stood on the periphery of a crowd, not quite breaching its edges. He moved with an uncertain gait as if he couldn’t make up his mind to be here or gone. Twice, he came up close to the crowd before disappearing. Eventually, he shuffled over to where I was and he began to talk. His first words were hard to hear.

“You only got one life. And mine is over,” he said while looking just above my head.

I didn’t have any life-changing words of inspiration; they would have felt disingenuous anyway. I couldn’t pretend to know him or his hardships. So I listened. When he spoke, it felt like he needed confirmation of his existence, as if he had been wandering on for too long amongst people who didn’t even see him.

His nose drizzled into the moustache above his lip and he finally looked into my eyes. “Nobody cares. When I’m gone, no one will even know. His eyes were serious and flat and I could feel the gap between us. “I don’t want it to be like that, ya know.”

I nodded. I still didn’t say much, but then I didn’t need to.

His snow pants were the overall type. A small label at his chest read -50. He wore a black baseball cap, leaving his ears exposed and carried a pair of dirty white gloves. He had just turned 39.

“I’m scared. I’m so scared,” he said and then began to cry. “I know what I need to do. I need to stop being drunk.”

I nodded again, but only because I didn’t really know what he needed. Perhaps it was a warm bed or a home or a program. Perhaps it was easy to say “I need to stop being drunk” but is harder to say what that really means.

I told him my name and I listened. He talked of the west coast of Hudson’s Bay where he was a fisherman and hunter. And he smiled. I could feel the air between us growing lighter. The tide is every 6 hours – high tide and low tide.

He leans over, his shoulders hunching as his hands mimic the size and shape of the fish. I could see it moving between his hands. He laughed. “I know everything about it,” he says. His eyes change as he stares into mine. He’s happy, caught in the memories and I don’t really believe that he’s here anymore. Rather, he is there with the arctic char and his family and his roots and his life.

But then it’s time to go and he says, “I get scared, too.”

He repeats it again and again.

“I need help.”

Time: 2:30 pm – 3:55 pm plus 32 minutes of miscellaneous walking time

Today’s Minutes: 117

Total Challenge Minutes: 760/3720

Ahead/Behind: -80 minutes