St- Emelie-de-l'Énergie, Quebec. Pastel on paper, 13" x 9 3/4".
For those of us who live this far north, you simply have to find something to like about winter - something that makes you actually look forward to it, and that gives you the endurance to get through the last two months of it. I was born in snow country, and have spent my entire life absorbed in the rhythm of seasonal change, attuned to the micro-signals of weather and temperature. We all do that to some degree, don't we? A person from St. Lucia probably knows the moods of the sea the same way I know the different sounds of snow under my feet, or what the cold air tells me as it enters my nostrils.
But what I love most about winter, in addition to the exhilarating feeling of being outdoors on a very cold but bright day -- a feeling nothing in summer can match -- is the way it looks.
The beauty of snow, its purity, its varying texture, the way it reflects light, the way it changes a familiar landscape, the quality of shadows cast on it or light passing through it, the different sizes and tempos and patterns it takes as it falls through the air or is blown about by the wind: all these are by now deeply ingrained, and loved, in spite of any complaints I may make from time to time during a long cold winter. It would be unthinkable for me to miss an entire winter, to fly south like so many Canadian snowbirds who escape to Florida or Costa Rica when the first flurries arrive, and never return until there's green grass and daffodils.
By now, heading toward late February, I'm getting tired of it, for sure. And we too are planning a brief escape soon to someplace much warmer. A lot of the ice has melted and the snow in the city has receded; walking is pretty easy right now, and though we'll get some big wet snowfalls in March, the accumulation seems to have peaked and started to turn in the other direction. I hear there's a huge amount in Quebec City still, as there was out in the country, inspiring the picture at the top of this post. As I worked on that pastel, I thought about the blue of the shadows, how intense it is, and how deep it seems to go into the snow itself.
It's such a strange substance, snow. In the city, where it accumulates in volume, it creates an enormous problem and has to be trucked out and piled in great snow dumps, but that weighty, voluminous substance is entirely ephemeral: pick up a handful and merely breathe on it, and watch it disappear.