Spring officially started on March 21, and I think the snow will be gone from my yard by the end of this week. Last weekend I was kicking myself for putting the summer tires on the van, as we were visited by frigid temperatures (-20C or -4F) and six inches of snow.
With winter lasting 6-7 months (and snowfalls starting as early as September!), with sunrise after 9 a.m. and setting at 4 p.m. (making us feel like moles in the rat race), and with summers where our hottest days are 30C (86F) and there are only about three days of that heat, I’m sure every resident has considered moving to warmer climes, especially during arctic January.
But I love it here. There’s a lot to love about the north. Some of it is the basic benefits found in rural living; the friendliness of community, lower cost of living, access to nature & solitude, wide open spaces. Other perks of northern life are specific to the northern latitudes, and aren’t always obvious or quickly discovered.
Though our winters can seem long and bleak, those short days mean I get to enjoy sunrise’s watercolor hues, and the vivid sunsets reflected on the blank canvas of snow. The coldest days are clear and bright, casting shadows in hues of cobalt, violet and ultramarine. I am inspired to paint more by the colors of winter than any other season.
Aurora Borealis (northern lights) dance across the sky on cold winter nights, flowing, glowing white, green and red. I never tire of their display. The skies just seem to be bigger here, canopied over patchword fields. Summer skies wear the emotions of weather with childish transparency.
Summer brings long days, where it never really gets dark, and the birds sing their hearts out for 22 hours, while the world is sleeping in a gray-blue haze of twilight. As if in repentance for winter’s brutality, wildflowers blaze color across fields, forest and roadway.
Berries. Every year I search the yard for the first white blossoms of the wild strawberry. The tiny berries are hard to find in quantity and a trial to pick, but nothing tastes more of early summer. Raspberries grow tangled and wild around the perimeter of our property, and my children roam outdoors and come in satiated and red-stained. Saskatoon berries line the river hills, and make delicious pies. In August we take a day and drive two hours into the Rocky Mountains to find huckleberries. We ignore the low-lying wild blueberry to pick this juicier, earthy-tasting fruit, and take precautions to avoid meeting a grizzly bear.
Less densely populated by humans means more wildlife. While we can see the lights of Dawson Creek from our living room window, behind us is a hill system of miles of trees and thick underbrush, home of bears, wolves, mountain lions, deer, elk and moose, virtually our neighbours. And like all neighbours, there are a few that don’t mind dropping by to gaze into my windows!
Natural wonders such as the Peace River, Kinuseo Falls and the Rocky Mountains are all within driving distance, and relatively uninvaded. Visiting popular tourist attractions such as Banff make me uncomfortable. I am accustomed to enjoying nature unobserved by strangers.
While I complain about the distance required when I am craving a serious shopping trip, or a Broadway-style musical, or an ultra-classy dinner out, the truth is, the things that make me truly happy are all found here, in my home in the north.
Visit this site for some wonderful photos of my home.
To read: Mrs. Mike by Benedict & Nancy Freedman
Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy by Richmond P. Hobson Jr.
The Peace, an Exploration in Photographs by Donald Pettit