Thursday, March 10, 2011

As winter creeps into March....

The deluge froze into a mountain of snow that accumulated, half melted re-froze, solidified into an ice sheet and then the snow fell again
My challenge – with artwork in tow.  Was to fly roughly 1000 km south in a  de Havilland Canada Dash 8 300 series turbo prop that was probably manufactured only slightly after I was born.  The way it works up here in the wet northern coast is that in the absence of any flat land on the island on which I live, it was necessary for those folks building the airport to place the runway on a neighbouring island ..  accessible only by ferry or water taxi.   And so on this auspicious morning I boarded the bus, that creaks and bounces and just generally feels like something used by a prison to haul inmates  -  it leaves from the hotel down town,  almost 3 hours before the flight is scheduled to depart,  and it takes luggage and passengers across on the ferry to the airport.

The bus was packed as the flight the night before had been cancelled due to terrible winds and white out snow conditions… and so squished like sardines in a can we drove to the ferry… onto the ferry… and the ferry never left. After some time we were informed that the lone truck that existed at the airport to which the blade for clearing snow was attached was broken in some manner and that it was not possible to clear the run way – therefore the planes would not be landing that day and a mechanic had been sent for.

Now – why they could not have rounded up one of the snowplows in town to ride the ferry with us and clear that run way I’ll never know… but the long and the short of it was that there was no way I was getting out of town that morning.

My option… to catch a grey hound bus to the nearest neighbouring town some 140 km along the single snow covered road that snakes out of town along the mighty River of Mists.  And so it was that I found myself watching 3 men trying to dig out the bus from a snowbank as it ploughed into town.   But 4 hours later I was behind the security check point at the airport and readying myself for a trip marvelling at snow capped peaks jutting angularly out of densely forested green hillsides that form this spectacular coastline complete with deep fjords and a myriad of odd shaped islands, patchy with clear-cuts and scared by logging roads. 

The Stark Blues of Winter
Original Watercolour
The wind stirs and the skeletal branches creak in protest like old rusted hinges.  The movement dislodges the newly settled snow and sends it swirling to the pallid earth.  The air seems clearer, the sky hangs low, and the world is full of possibilities.  The snow just keeps falling.  It coats the forest in powdery white, and makes the world stand still.   There is a surreal quality to the light, you could almost believe in magic on a day like today.
© RiverWalker Arts

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

playing dodge the snow squall....

The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.  ~Patrick Young

I listened to the rain pounding on the single pane window on the side of my little room all night.  The pattering of raindrops loud against the howl of the wind and the more distant roaring of the surf as it beat against the shore.   I burrowed deep into my nest of blankets.  I’d even pulled the spare blankets from the closet and thrown them on the bed to try to ward off the chill.

Incoming Storm
I woke as the light crept into my room and wondered if the wind had died down with the rain.  I slipped from the covers, and padded across my little room  to look out towards the sea.   Beyond the young fir trees  - the waves looked as angry as ever and their quiet drone had lulled me into complacency. 

I figured I had until 3 that afternoon for the weather to sort itself out as that was the time my float plane was scheduled to leave and get me home.  I dressed, packed, loaded my bag into the car and wandered over to the main house to see about coffee.  

My host, and the care taker of the lodge in which I was staying was just in the process of pulling something delicious smelling from the oven.  Breakfast!! Yum. When someone else cooks, it is always delicious... when it’s a professional cook catering to me... even better! 

With breakfast eaten and time to kill before my flight... where else but to the beach..

My work partner and I  bumped along the gravel road that leads to the beach,  the road is narrow bordered by cedar trees towering out of the peaty bog  and  adorned with thick clumps of moss hanging pendulously overhead.  And then the road ends abruptly  with an endless expanse of sand and wind and water. 

Tourists often undertake this drive down the 23km stretch of seemingly endless sand… however when placing a bet on having a tow truck arrive from Masset versus the tide coming in and swamping the tourist’s stuck vehicle, the smart money bets with the tide…  this beach claims a number of vehicles each year.  At the end of north beach… Rose Spit… the longest spit in Canada.  An immense sandbar stretches northward towards Alaska. 

Ocean Spray
The wind howled and hurtled bits of frozen snow pellets at me.. and I tightened my hood on my jacket and headed out to the water’s edge.  The waves pounded into the sea and the little rocky outcrop that marks the only  interruption in an otherwise lengthy stretch of sand that spans roughly over 100km between Masset and Tlell.

I was convinced the plane would never fly, but a break in the winds found me sitting in a little 5 seater beaver that made it’s treacherous way home dodging snow squalls over the turbulent waters below.  While I hung tight to the seat and tried not to think of how fast hypothermia would kill me assuming I even made it out of that 50 year old tincan of an airplane.... we somehow managed to make the crossing.

View from under the wing... trying to out-fly the incoming storm.

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death.  ~Alexander Chase