Winter Has Its Blessings

Another “character-building” winter day is dawning here in Saskatchewan. Thermometers in the city of Saskatoon are showing -29C / -20F at 7 am with a bracing wind chill equal to -37 C/ -34 F. (Actually the wind is only 8 kms per hour, but at this temp it doesn’t take much wind to give you an invigorating bite if you think of standing around outdoors.) Forecast high today is -21C / -6.

My heart goes out in sympathy to folks who normally live on the street and I’m so thankful there are organizations like the Salvation Army and various street missions that open their doors to the homeless and give them a warm meal. And I’m thankful for my own warm home. It’s a great day to build something at my sewing machine.

During the past few weeks I’ve been going through some scribblings, keying poems and what-not into my computer so I can toss out some of my space-absorbing paper collection. Here’s one silly poem I’ve saved for an especially chilly winter day.

Yes, there are some advantages to a deep freeze.

Ode to a Prairie Pest

What can the use of a grasshopper be?
Not even one purpose occurs to me!
Do you think that God in his great wise ways
has a reason for you on hot summer days?

Or are you guys here to help us know
the blessings of the soft fluffy snow
and cold that freezes those little chins
to keep you from eating the grain in our bins?

So I’ll give thanks for snow a-crunching
that deadens the sound of insects munching.
And now that I think it’s grasshopper free,
how very beautiful heaven must be!

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Moonbeams and Wee Hours

I wonder how many of you got to see the “blood moon” this morning? I got up at 7:15 am and glanced out our south window to see stars twinkling brilliantly in a black sky. No moonlight, though.

My husband had reminded me before bed that there would be an eclipse in the early morning, so I stepped out and had a look around. Took some looking but I did find the moon, pretty much at full eclipse, and it definitely did have a bloody appearance. I checked again from time to time as the earth started to move away. These natural phenomena are always intriguing.

In honour of this “blue moon” and lunar eclipse event, I’ll post some lunar haiku I’ve written in the past:

Midnight Thoughts

midnight poems
composed when sleep won’t come
only the moon is clear

full moon.night.jpg

Moonshine

In the wee hours
he wanders, bleary eyes
full of moonshine

Kind Moon

even to the drunkard
snoring in the alley
the moon is kind

Climate 1935-Style

Now that we’ve reached the end of January and are looking forward to warmer days ahead,  I thought this might be a great time to pause and look back at some of the weather our grandparents endured. This account reblogged from August 2012:

Worst of the Worst, Weather-Wise

Never before had western Canadians seen a year like 1935.  The first week in January temperatures fell to between -35̊ and -40̊ F (-37.5 to -40̊ C) all across the prairies and for two months winter held the prairie provinces in a frozen vice, lightened only by the occasional blizzard –some lasting for days– that would bring temperatures up a few degrees.

For the first two weeks in February temps rarely went above -30̊, a lot of days saw -40̊ or colder.  Winnipeg residents saw the line in their home thermometers sitting at -52̊ (-47̊ C) on the morning of Feb 6th.  Alas, the official Winnipeg thermometer had malfunctioned overnight, so the record was never officially recorded.

On February 16th saw -36̊ in Calgary, -51̊ in Edmonton, -43̊ at Saskatoon, -54̊ at Regina; other spots recorded -40̊.  City schools continued to open their doors, but streets were pretty much deserted; rural schools were closed and folks who didn’t have to leave home stayed put.  A lot of families huddled near the heater or wood stove, wrapped in all their blankets and tried to stay upbeat.  Spring was bound to come sooner or later.

Farmers put off going for fuel as long as they could.  They needed a team of horses and the air tires of a “Bennet buggy” to get anywhere, since blizzards had filled the roads with snowdrifts.  Otherwise it was impossible to go anywhere, even if a fellow could start his frozen engine.  (This was back in the days when vehicles had cranks as starters and all-season motor oil was unheard of.)  Every side road between Winnipeg and Calgary was blocked.

A thaw at the end of February brought an end to the severe cold; in April spring finally arrived.  Some folks who were hoping for some respite from the drought that had wiped out most of the 1934 crop saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel: outside the Palliser Triangle* spring rains watered the parched earth.  Inside the Palliser Triangle: nada.

Hopes were soon dashed, though, as a giant heat wave built up on the US plains and sent high temps and dust-bearing winds rolling over the prairies.  The dry heat sucked up what soil moisture there was; crops turned pale, then brown.  By July 1st 90̊ and over temps were the rule, continuing across southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta for the next six weeks straight.

Streams and rivers ran dry; wildlife disappeared.  Heat-weary city folks tried to sleep in parks or on balconies to find some night time relief but had to contend with hoppers and crickets – and in places where there actually were bodies of water, mosquitoes.  Farmers often had to haul water many miles for their families and what livestock they had left.

During this time Ontario was hit by a ten-day heat wave as well and residents there began to appreciate what the West was going through.  For one solid week in July, from Windsor to Belleville, the thermometer registered 100̊ F or over every day.  Toronto recorded 105̊ on three successive days.  Surrounded by the Great Lakes as they are, the humidity would have been unbearable; 5000 succumbed to heat prostration during those ten days.

From Calgary to Winnipeg nothing grew but dust clouds and grasshoppers.  The blowing hot air was stifling, the grit inescapable.  One southern town saw temperatures fall below 90̊ on only three days during those six weeks!  Willow Creek, in SW Sask, recorded temperatures above 100̊ on thirteen July days.  People died every day.  In the West no one bothered to compile statistics; folks were in survival mode only.

In Manitoba the heat wave peaked on July 11th with temps of 108̊ in Winnipeg, 110̊ in Brandon & Morden, then hung at over 100̊ all through the third week of July.  A dozen people died daily, plus many of their pets.  Finally the heat spell ended in a destructive electrical storm that stretched from Winnipeg through the eastern part of the province.  But Sask and southern Alberta was shown no mercy from the blast furnace until the latter part of August.

Winter came early with brief but chilly waves throughout the fall.  In October the temperature dropped to -8̊F (just under 22̊ C) at times, to -20̊ in November and -40̊ in December.

During those years folks survived on hope.  If they’d been informed at Christmas of the upcoming winter being another severe one, or that the drought would last another two years, how many of them would have simply given up the ghost?

——————————————————————————————————————————
*Palliser Triangle: In 1857 the British government sent an expedition led by Captain John Palliser to assess the agricultural potential of the Northwest Territories .  When he was gave his report to his superiors, he drew a triangle on his map and said the land inside this triangle was unsuitable for farming. Severe winters, undependable rainfall, large tracts of sand that would blow or clay that would bake hard by early summer.  They’d had a hard enough time to cross it, never mind trying to farm it.  This triangle covered a lot of southern Alberta, all of southern Sask, and southwestern Manitoba, The base ran along the US border and the point was near Saskatoon.

Nonsense, the government replied, and sold it for farmland.  They put out promotional material awash with illustrations of lush wheat fields, information carefully vetted of any hints about severe cold or drought.  To make matters worse, government agricultural dept advised the inexperienced homesteaders to plow deep in the fall — a practice that brought on the disastrous “Dirty Thirties”.

My sources of information:
Winnipeg writer James H. Gray lived through the years of the Great Depression.  In his book, The Winter Years, he shares his own personal experience of being “on Relief” in Winnipeg as well as giving a political and economic overview of the era.
© 1966 by James H. Gray  Published by The Macmillan Company of Canada

Pierre Berton’s book, The GREAT DEPRESSION, 1929-1939
© 1990 by Pierre Berton Enterprises Ltd.  Published by Anchor Canada

He Shared With Me His Sunshine

In the course of working with my manuscript of Silver Morning Song, wanting to issue a print edition of the book, I came across this poem I wrote long ago and completely forgot about.  Have you ever had that happen? Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

He Shared With Me His Sunshine

by C. Goodnough

One dreary, rainy morning
the rain was drizzling down
I chanced to pass a gentleman
while walking through the town.

He must have seen me frowning,
and thought me quite unwise.
He offered me a cheerful word
with sunshine in his eyes:

“Thank God for rainy weather,”
“it makes the flowers grow,
it brightens up the greenery–
and better rain than snow.”

“You’re right,” said I, “and thanks, sir.
You’ve brightened up my day.”
He passed to me his cheerful grin
as he went on his way.

 

 

 

Gift From the Heavens

Our Friday Fictioneers prompt has popped into my In box again thanks to the efforts of our kind host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields over at Addicted to Purple. If you pop over to her blog you can click on the InLinkz blue frog and see other bloggers’ responses — and even add your own. Tossing a special thanks across the pond to CE Ayr at Sound Bite Fiction for contributing this unique photo.

Though I may find this a hard scene to do as a fiction tale, it’s going to be a breeze for me as non-fiction. The minute I saw this picture I remembered an unusual melon-sized rock our cousin Ron and wife Rose had sitting on their coffee table. It was such an unusual shape and color you had to ask for the story behind it.

PHOTO PROMPT© CEAyr

Circa 1928 Ron and his father were making hay in the field beside Old Wives’ Lake when this smoking ball streaked from the sky toward them. They watched in awe as the meteor splashed into the lake followed by a sizzling sound. A cloud of steam rose. Impressed, they went back to their task at hand.

Then came the Dirty Thirties; the shallow lake disappeared. One day Ron was cutting grass in the lake bed when he found this mottled black rock, seemingly spewed from a volcano. He hauled it home and gave it pride of place in their garden.

The Disposers

Inspired by a Trip to the Dump:

How kind of these birds to help us,
screaming their delight
or their reproaches — who can know? —
as they orbit low.

Above the black mountain they inhale
the aroma, rotten smells that tantalize.
Man’s refuse, ravens’ delight
creatures of day and night.

What do they think of such profligates?
“How wasteful these people — all this good food!
Or do they imagine we offer to them?
“Such thoughtful men.”

Screaming, poking, doing battle
with crickets for the choicest bits,
they pull from the pile whatever
they can between the rattle and roar
of trucks bearing yet more slag —
splitting plastic bags.

We frown at their presence ungratefully,
despise their ceaseless gloating, yet
how busy do we keep those birds!
And you’ll never see them shirk
their useful work.

We sneer and say, “What vile profession!”
As if we were not partner here,
while they dispose of our debris,
the dregs of our prosperity,
and we get off so free.