Sunday, February 11, 2018

You know it's been cold



… when -27°C (-20°F) feels so balmy that you have to open not only your jacket, but your hoodie as well, and take off your mittens because it’s just too hot.
Four months of solitude, and yeah, I do look a bit ... wild

January is always a quiet month out here, the animals settled into their mid-winter range which doesn’t seem to include us. It’s also been nice and cold for a change. I invariably look forward to cold snaps where every little task feels like a major achievement: chopping the day’s firewood supply while fingers and toes turn something very much like frozen wood, chopping the thick ice that encroaches into the waterhole from the sides and threatens to constrict the diameter to less than water bucket size, going for a walk without re-freezing my toe, frost-bitten a few winters ago.

And just as invariably, after four days or so I begin to grumble at the same things I looked forward to. Waking up to 5°C (40°F) inside the cabin is losing its charm. Goes to show how moods are silly things and have just about nothing to do with outside influences, and all the more with how we deal with situations.

Writing is a fun way out of cabin fever, a little trip into a fantasy world entirely my own, and I’ve been spending pleasant weeks kicking words around inside my head.
There has been precious little to blog about, so I didn’t, but here are some images to make up for the lack of posts: 
December walk
Ice pushed up into a pressure ridge, imitating plate tectonics

My water hole and its attendant sun dial

Haven't been using my studio to avoid having to heat two buildings

I can never get enough of the incredible variants of winter light

Morning yellow is one of my favourite colours

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Solstice!

Just before the last winter Solstice, this bear cub was found severely hypothermic and half frozen by the side of a B.C. highway. The kind person who cared enough to stop was able to simply pick him up: the little cub had no fight left. At Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter, he passed out in front of his first bowl of food. He could barely move.

Spirit made a full recovery and was released back into the wild in mid-June this year together with his good friend Mimosa who came from the same region.

The bear cubs I cared for during my ten months at the shelter are always on my mind, especially the thirteen yearlings we released. I hope Spirit, Mimosa and the others are safe and hibernating in good dens, and that those who have not survived will have known happiness in their time back in the wild.

The sun will spill more light now regardless.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Moose and ice



The milky left eye of the bull calf tells the kind of tale we’re privy to: tiny excerpts of drama that played out elsewhere. Last time I saw this moose his eyes looked normal. What happened to the left one in those three weeks? He twitches back when small poplar branches scrape against that area of his head.

I feel immediately sorry, worried, concerned. How will he be able to deal with wolf packs or grizzly bears? Does it hurt? But then I notice how sturdy-looking he is and remind myself of the injured animals I met during my time at Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter, their incredible resilience and ability to heal or just get by in spite of handicaps. 

And the little bull still has the protection of his mother for another five months. She’s pruning poplar twigs, pulling a mouthful of old fireweed leaves out of the snow for variety. The snow is a sunken, miserable shadow of its former fluffy self: Over a week of above-freezing weather including rain has reduced it to something like Crème brûlée. The crust is hard enough to step on for the fraction of a second, then breaks with a crunch as the foot sags into the snow underneath. It must be tough for heavy animals like moose, caribou and wolves, because every step creates sharp-edged craters. 

Indeed, the moose prefer to walk on my slick glacier-like trails, a spider web of ice that I can only negotiate with ice grips under my boots. Alone in the bush for another two months, I cannot afford to sprain a limb and creep around as cautiously as a ninety-year old. The greatest difficulty is getting water. The open lake keeps chewing away at the north and south edges of my seven square kilometer ice floe and has managed to push against it so much, I now have a knee-high wall of ice along shore. This slopes down to the ice floe proper where my water hole is located at a very steep angle and is as slippery as a skating rink. It’s a pain to negotiate, even with the ice grips under my soles, and pulling the full water canisters back up over it and up the glacier path to the cabin feels more like ice climbing than walking. If this is the way of the future, I have to say I don’t like it one little bit.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017