The Dryden Observer

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EDITORIAL: Chilled to the bone

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand
In hindsight, sprayfoam was a very good idea.

I shudder, or perhaps more accurately, shiver to think what may have been happening inside the formerly wood shaving and newspaper lined walls of my 100 year-old home had they not been gutted and refilled with better stuff this past summer.

Now, tight as a drum, I’ve become the draft hunter, sensitive to the slightest change in air pressure and temperature gradient, my questing hand running over doorframes and window trim like an astronaut seeking to preserve precious atmosphere from the frigid black vacuum of space.

It’s not a bad analogy. Much ado was made about daytime temperatures on Mars registering higher than our own. There is a wonderful kind of doomed solidarity in feeling like you live on the moon.

I love the extreme cold. In recent weeks I was stunned speechless by the beauty of a sunset over Wabigoon Lake at -35C – the cold drawing the moisture from the slushy lake through the snow into a strange haze that softened colours into hues I’d never before seen in nature.

The question was asked recently on a national radio call-in show, ‘Are we as a nation getting soft, when it comes to winter?’

As much as I’d like to consider myself as rugged as a polar explorer, I have trouble complaining about the lack of fortitude displayed by my fellow Canadians during this wicked cold snap without being one of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by power outages in Southern Ontario and New Brunswick throughout the holidays.

If anyone gets to complain, it’s them.

It’s weather such as this that reveals our vulnerabilities — the easily broken thread by which we cling to civilization and how easily that is broken. Somewhere in our ability to accept that high level of uncertainty and to take care of each other under such circumstances you will find one kind of answer to the question of ‘what does it mean to be Canadian?’

As for the highways, I can’t help but sympathize with the unpopular viewpoint that there is more at play in our highways situation than a lack of effort on the part of the roads maintenance contractor.

A straight month of temperatures that failed to rise above -20C render many of the tools at their disposal, like road salt, ineffective. Combine a wait-and-see ethic towards deploying equipment in a timely, proactive manner with the unforgiving temperatures we’re experiencing and is it any wonder why we’re seeing a snow-packed Trans-Canada two weeks since the last snowfall?

Most seasoned winter drivers know that driving on bad roads is not the problem, so much as it is driving in proximity to others on bad roads.

The existential philospher Jean-Paul Sartre famously said, “Hell, is other people.”

Truer words have not been spoken for those who find themselves wedged into a column of tight slow moving traffic on a road covered in snow and black ice.

If anything, this is the mark of our times. Whereas we once could rely upon a greater level of safety from our public institutions, we need to adapt to a higher level of self-reliance and awareness of the limitations of ‘public’ services.


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