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

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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 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.

IMG_1382

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