In the beginning, 0C feels cold, and minus 10 feels really cold. Mice migrate into the house. Plastic goes up on the windows. As time passes the temperature continues cold and colder. At night it drops into the minus 30’s and stays for more than a week. The car won’t start. Thirty minutes from Whitehorse along the Mayo Road it’s in the minus 40’s. That’s really cold.
Then it warms up to minus 25, which feels pretty good, except for the north wind which is cold and sharp on your face. Tug the scarf up over your nose. Pull fingers from gloves into a warming fist.
When the sun shines, the bright frosted branches of birch along the riverbank are dazzling, the middle world brilliant with ice crystals and the ghostly shift of winter fog. Vapors rise from the river where chunks of ice assemble in irregular forms, flow sluggishly to bump and stick to the solid ice along the edges, building in mass to eventually span the river. Soon fox and coyote travel back and forth to hunt on the small islands in the river by Spook Creek Station, scavenge by the fast food dumpsters.
Dress warm, wear the winter boots, the parka, the long underwear and mittens, even if you think the bus will be on time. A long time of cold and dark days follow, and we adapt. Boreal chickadees visit the feeders all day, and bohemian waxwings rove in flocks to feed on the red berries of the mountain ash.
Then the low minus 20’s and the lengthening daylight are perfect for skiing and long walks with the dog. Now, at minus 10, it feels pleasant. Don’t bother with long underwear or winter boots. Snowshoe through the bush and build a camp in the snow, drink tea by the fire.
At 0C the snow melts in sweeping patches on the south facing hill above Ear Lake. Crocus push toward the sun, unstoppable. Tiny beetles, dark and shiny, clamber in the flower heads, intent and purposeful. Insects take flight. We splash through puddles. It’s that warm.