In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
This picture is for my friend Leslee in Boston, who writes, "The snow here is all bunched up (and dirty) between buildings, as I imagine it is in Montreal." Yes, you're quite right, Leslee. Today is still frigid - minus 14C - but I did go out to Little Italy and the Jean-Talon market yesterday to do some shopping, and managed to take my gloves off long enough to take this photograph. It was OK in the sun, but the wind was straight from the arctic and very strong, blowing my furry hood off my head whenever I turned to face it and sending clouds of dry light snow whirling off the roofs of buildings.
Some of us are still pouting, curled up in wool and fleece...
But others, like me, are starting to feel the pull of outdoors and the increasing intensity and healing power of the sunlight. The lack of light up here is really no joke. Canadian are all urged to take Vitamin D because we tend to be deficient simply by virtue of our latitude, and a lot of people suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and are helped by special lamps. Nearly everybody is affected one way or the other by the sheer length of the winters, let alone the extreme cold like we've had this year. I just begin to go stir-crazy with what we always called cabin fever in New England, and no matter what, I have to get outside and moving. I miss downhill skiing, and wish my knees had held up so that I could have continued!
But in the studio, our plants are clearly telegraphing the message of lengthening days:
That's not just a forest of avocado plants, but a batch of cherry tomatoes that came up from seed that must have been hiding in the planter, a gift from my gardening friend Eric F. back in October, and are now spilling over. I've thinned them and am pinching them back. On the left, the four-year-old lantana is bushy and vigorous after I cut it way back around Christmas. On the right is a geranium I rescued from a neighboring studio after they moved, along with this massive cactus:
And the bougainvillea is still pumping out its gorgeous blooms, delighting me up every morning when I walk into the studio...
...and reminding me that soon, I'll be here:
And when we return, it really will be almost-spring.
How are you holding up, if you're in the north? And if you're in a warmer climate, what are your first signs of spring?
Fort Montgomery, on the western side of Lake Champlain near Rouse's Point, built at one of the northernmost strategic points of the American part of the lake, to protect against an attack from British Canada (1840s-1870s.)
Snow drifts, eastern side of Lake Champlain near Rouse's Point.
Well, this is how it is right now! We can dream about summer, but there's hardly a decent tomato to be found, and lettuce is selling for $3 - $4 a head.
We only got the tail end of the snowstorm that hit Boston, and I'm glad for some fresh whiteness to cover the soggy grey. This is the long slog now, through February. So far, I'm coping all right. The key for me is to get enough light (our studio is really bright all day and it helps so much), keep busy, see friends, be amused at the absurdity of living in this climate, and indulge in a few treats now and then -- fresh raspberries today for our breakfast.
Rue de Lanaudière, 7:30 am. The picture doesn't show the wind that was howling around the buildings at the time. Today is warmer than it's been: about -10 C when we left the house. A heat wave! Yesterday it was -25. Even so, people are riding their bikes, and going around without hats on. Complètement fou.
This is a "brigadiere scolaire": a crossing guard. Her sign says "ARRÈT," and she holds it aloft when helping school children cross the street. The reflective vest is important: it's still pretty dark and low-contrast in early morning, and when the kids come home from school in mid-afternoon.
Underneath that snow is a solid coating of ice. The snow has made it a little easier to walk, but it's also deceptive. Driving is hazardous. I can only imagine how difficult it is right now for the elderly and people with disabilities. Just before I took this picture, a tractor came up the sidewalk pulling a trailer spreading road salt. The salt helps some, but it can also create water that simply freezes again.
In case you're curious, that vertical structure above is the machine where you pay for parking. They all have solar panels on the top: not too effective when covered with snow!
There was an ice storm a few days ago, setting the trees glittering and clattering, and making it nearly impossible to walk. Fortunately the ice came off quickly and the wind wasn't violent, or there would be many more trees down than there were, but the result has been a concrete-like snow, covered by frozen rain, that cemented parked cars in place, and is so rock-like that it challenges even the heaviest snow-removal equipment. Yesterday was bitter cold. Today is warmer, but it's as if we're living in a black-and-white film. I find it quite beautiful, but my patience will begin to wear thin after another couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I have stretch crampons on my boots, and pick my way across the ice fields.
It took me a minute, the first time I saw this laundry ("buanderie") to work out that Blanche Neige is a pun: "Snow White." Such is the beauty and delight of living in a bilingual city. I pass this corner every day, and use the laundry when I need to wash something large from our studio -- but the name never seemed more appropriate than it did yesterday.