Tag Archives: snow

Eat or be Eaten

A few days ago when the snow came down hard and heavy, I felt sorry for the birds, as I always do when the weather makes their lives hard to bear. But I had forgotten that not only do some birds — the weak, the injured, and the unlucky — have a hard enough time finding food, but they have to beware of becoming food for other birds.

The forested patches near our house are home to many bald eagles. Because the ocean is nearby, it is ideal for them, especially now as herring time draws near.  But until the herring fishery begins, the eagles take advantage of the suffering of other bird species. They are especially fond of snatching seabirds from the water or the beaches.

Out in my backyard, under one of the firs that the eagles love to use as their dining room, I found, discarded, a wing that had been stripped of all meat. My guess is that it was from a loon, as these seem to be one of the eagle’s favourites. I have found several loon carcasses under the dining tree in the past. For the photo, I have put a pop can beside the wing to show the relative size.

In the animal world it still goes that you must “Eat or be eaten.”

A Cold Blanket

How often have we heard the expression, “A blanket of snow”? But how warm is this blanket? NOT VERY!

A chilly blanket settles down

On every surface in the town.

The hills and valley shiver too,

Of drivers there are just a few.

Daring shoppers venture out

Their cars and trucks slide all about.

We’ll just get used to all this snow

And then the rain will make it go.

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The sun is doing its best to warm up the ice blanket but I think it won’t be successful today. More snow is coming before the usual rain is back.

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Snow Up High

The weather forecast was for another rainy night of high winds. Earlier in the week, our power had gone out three times overnight and we braced ourselves for yet another blow. We were lucky this time and although it rained and was ugly, most of the system passed to the south of us. I felt bad for those people who were hit with winds over 100 kms/hr and lost their power, but at the same time I was thankful we were spared.

A few days ago, the hills had only a touch of snow left at the highest elevation. But all that new rain had come down as snow way up there. I felt sorry for any animals living in the woods on the hillsides, yet selfish to think how pretty the snow looked in the morning light. I’m sure all the skiers were overjoyed. It must have been amazing to ski the next days.005

Winter Begins

Monday, December 21, 2015 at 8:49 PM Pacific Standard Time

That’s when the northern hemisphere is leaning the farthest away from the earth. After that, it will come back closer to the sun by tiny degrees. Officially it’s the beginning of winter, but to me, it means the worst is over and we are beginning the journey back from the darkness and heading for spring.

Monday will be the day with the least amount of daylight. The night before that (tomorrow night) will be the longest stretch of darkness. That’s okay. I can hibernate for one more night before getting all excited about adding a minute or two of daylight to each coming day.

This fall, it has been one wind/rainstorm after another here on Vancouver Island. But a few days ago, the wind switched to the northwest and the blast of Arctic air brought some of that moisture down in the shape of snowflakes.

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With the newly fallen snow, it seems that the Christmas carols are now more festive and meaningful, although I always wondered why snow has this effect on us, since the original Christmas story took place in a desert and obviously it was warm enough there, because not even the wise men were wearing a parka.

I hope the snow stays up in the hills. I don’t need to go play in it or make angels in the snow. I’m happy enough to look at it from the warmth and comfort of my living room.

 

 

 

Comox Glacier

 

We’ve had an awful lot of rain lately. It’s almost as bad as last year at this time. I went back to the news report from Dec. 9, 2014 when the city of Courtenay had unusually high flooding in the city park next to the river. Usually it’s just flooding over the baseball diamonds and some of the kids’ play areas, but last year was bad, as you can see from this photo by Julie Nichol, with widespread flooding over the fields and roads nearby. That’s the Courtenay River on the left and Lewis Park on the right.

Courtenay flooding 2014

This year in December, it has rained a lot again, and almost to the day there was flooding in the low areas of Courtenay.

BUT! At higher elevations, all that rain came down as snow. The owners of the local ski hill on Mt. Washington must be ecstatic to have this dump of snow just in time for their official opening today.

Those of us who did not get up to the ski hill could still enjoy the results of all this higher elevation “rain turned to snow” just by looking up at the Comox Glacier. It has been losing mass year by year, but today, even though it received only a superficial coating of snow, it looks the way it did many years ago when it was still a substantial glacier.

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Several legends are told about the glacier, and one that seemed plausible today says that this mountain is a “Sleeping Princess.” I can see her lying there with her head on the right side of the glacier, chin in the air. But then I took another photo and discovered that the prince may also be lying there to the right. Do you see him there? He has a fat belly.

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It makes me happy to see the rain turned into snow in such a beautiful way, fit for royalty.

 

Wild Weather

Yesterday, in the morning the breeze was only a few puffs of air. By noon it was brisk, and by late afternoon it was wild.

The waves that roared in to the beach were like a never-ending freight train.

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When I see whitecaps on the water, I know I don’t want to be out there in a boat, no matter how big it is.

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The trees in this area have hardly any branches on the windward side. They have been buffeted by the southeasters for years and years.

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But there are some hardy kitesurfing souls who look forward to this stormy weather with great anticipation. One of their favourite places to come is this spit of land that has a slightly sheltered bay on one side of it. Although the bay is not affected by huge surf, there is enough wind from the open ocean side to give good lift to the kites. See the two kites below? The surfers are way below them, out of our line of vision, in the bay on the right side of the road.

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If you do as I did — look through all the neighbours’ overhead wires and the fences, down near the bottom of the photo between the bare branches of the tree — you can see one of the surfers. The picture is hazy and murky because the air was so full of moisture, all of it blowing sideways.

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I missed the calm before this storm, but I sure enjoyed the calm that came after it the next day. Pink early morning sunshine on the freshly fallen snow always brings a smile to me.

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I try not to think about the grouse that may be freezing up on that hill, and I hope all the marmots and squirrels are sleeping someplace, cozy in a winter nest. Down here at the lower elevations it almost seems like spring might come one of these days. I’m ready for it.

004If you like wild weather, you might like to read my novel, The Wind Weeps. It has plenty of bad weather scenes set on the coast of British Columbia. Just click on the cover image of the book if you’d like to find out more about it.

 

Life in the (not so far) North

This is a post from three years ago, before I had many followers. My apologies to those early readers who have already seen it. I thought it was a good wintery post, especially since we are having another cold snap. It’s a bit of reading, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Have you ever had someone ask you, “What was it like in the olden days?” My first impulse is always to say, “How should I know?” but I suppose, to the young people of today, I must seem ancient.

When I was little, I lived in the north. I found out later that Dawson Creek wasn’t all that far north. Still, judging by the winters we endured, I was sure we didn’t live far from the North Pole. So, I’ll tell you what it was like—up there, in the “olden days.” Not easy!

Kids walked to elementary school, some as far as a mile, in -20 or colder, all bundled up like mummies, with only slits of eyes peering through a scarf at the snow that swirled around them. I was lucky, living close to the school, but often I saw my friends arriving late, bawling their eyes out from the pain of the cold. How did parents allow them to walk that far in those bitter cold temperatures? What if the kids had fallen and not gotten up? I know how tempting it was to stay curled up in the snow after falling down in it. The indentation in the snow felt so warm, out of the wind, like a little cave. Luckily, my mother had warned me not to be fooled or I would freeze to death.

“You’ll fall asleep and never wake up,” she said. When I told her about my friend Linda crying when she got to school, she said, “You have to try not to cry when you get cold or your tears will freeze on your face.”

She was probably right. I never tested her theory, but I know that the air was cold enough to sear my lungs when I took that first breath as I stepped out of the house, and I was instantly aware of my eyebrows as they froze in the first few seconds.

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Still, we were pretty tough as kids. We played outside as long as it wasn’t too extreme, making snowforts, throwing snowballs, and building mountains of snow to slide down. Our mittens were soaked in no time and after going through two pairs of wet ones, we used old work socks instead. Every few minutes we came into the porch to ask for another pair of socks. Now as an adult, I can see my mother’s dilemma: keep handing out work socks and let the laundry pile up, or make the kids come in and have them underfoot.

In high school years I had farther to go to school—a couple of miles—and still, car rides to school were a rare thing. In those years, girls were not allowed to wear pants in school so it was an extra cool walk home. In elementary school we often wore pants under our skirts, but in high school, we didn’t always bother. Stupid conventions, looking back on them now; double layers of clothes for the double standards of the day.

A snowy trail packed down to ice by the tread of dozens of feet wound its way through fields that are now housing subdivisions. But back in “the olden days,” this trail was the connector from town to the outlying houses. Walking home from high school, the trick was to stay on the path and not slide off it into the foot and a half of softer snow next to it. Once that snow went inside the boots, forget about keeping warm. All the while, my ribcage ached from being so tensed up from trying to close every pore against the cold.

Crossing the railroad tracks one day, I slipped on the metal rail. I scrambled to get up and hurried home. When I got in the door and took off my snow-filled boots, I noticed a trickle of dried blood on my shin. I had a cut on my knee and didn’t even know it. So I concluded there was something good about the “natural freezing” of this harsh place. Who needs anaesthetic when you’re already numb from the cold?

I’ve frozen my feet so many times that even now, my toes suffer from permafrost. In those early years in Dawson Creek, without the benefit of modern technology to keep feet warm inside of boots, I came in from the cold with feet like icy clubs. I took off my boots and socks and sat near the heater. The pain of thawing my feet was worse than the pain of freezing them.

Now, many years later, living on Vancouver Island, I always marvel at what wusses people are here. They close the schools if there’s a snowfall of a few inches. If that applied in the north, there’d be no school for six or seven months of the year.

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But to be fair, I complain a lot about being cold when it’s raining and well above freezing. Now that I’ve joined the wusses, I wonder how I ever survived northern living.