Wednesday, 25 February 2015



Chipping Away


I saw a bald eagle Monday. Its wingspan was enormous. It circled over the monstrous Cape Cod style infill across the street, soaring slightly higher than the tips of the fir trees visible beyond the property. It flexed its dark wings, caught an updraft and then coasted back toward the nearby river valley. According to my illustrated Birds of Edmonton this migratory beast has hit Alberta’s capital a month early. It’s been that kind of winter.


I was outside with an ice-breaking tool, chipping away at the solid inch of blue-grey on the sidewalk, lifting opaque white shards under a low grey sky. It was mild enough for just a fleece and rubberized gardening gloves. Our extraordinarily eccentric neighbour Forest made his shuffling approach, head down, watching his feet. I heard the tick-tick-tick of his three-pronged metal cane first. I was working because I worry about brittle folk like him taking a tumble. He paused. I wondered if my Montreal Canadiens hat annoyed him; the past nine seasons have been tough on Oilers fans. After a moment he said, ‘The world is made of ice and I have no skates.’ It’s been that kind of winter. 


This month the freeze and thaw cycle has been as relentless as the plunging price of a barrel of oil. We’ve had days of Vancouver rain and nights of proper prairie cold. Some days there was no place to pile the snow, too much of it in one fall. Downspouts trickle like country creeks while icicles hang, suspended from uncommon places. Our streets and avenues are dimpled with potholes, some of which can be seen from space and will land unsuspecting drivers in China. The meteorologists who issue the increasingly frequent weather warnings must be using kittens, balls of yarn, shaved dice and Twister game mats to divine what’s coming next. It’s been that kind of winter.

Yesterday’s blustery six-above dropped to minus-11 overnight. The teeming rain fluffed into snow flakes and then diamond-hard ice pellets. I hope that early eagle made it through the night. Maybe it’s as confused as I am. It’s been that kind of winter.

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