COLUMN: Winter sunshine good for the soul

NANAIMO – For anyone suffering the blues (or greys) of this past dull and dreary West Coast winter, there is a solution.

For anyone suffering the blues (or greys) of this past dull and dreary West Coast winter, I have a solution.

No, it’s not a trip to some Caribbean destination, it’s a visit to Edmonton.

That’s right, Edmonton, Alta. in winter.

Actually, our visit was to the little town of Tofield, about 45 minutes east of Edmonton, but the therapeutic value of defeating seasonal affective disorder still applies.

Seven days and not once did I go anywhere without sunglasses. The combination of a bright blue sky and snow covered landscape quickly lifted my spirits that were dragged down by day after day of grey, gloomy, rainy weather in southwest B.C.

The purpose of the visit was to meet our new grandson – Colt LaRue, born Feb. 22 and absolutely wonderful, I must say.

The arrival of a healthy addition to the family – mom, Krista, and dad, Peter, are doing well, too – is enough to brighten the spirits, but the entire week was a great holiday.

Born and raised in Nanaimo, I have always wanted to experience the prairie cold and see for myself all this talk of a ‘dry cold’ versus our ‘wet cold’ was all about.

First off, the family got a kick out of us for continually commenting on the cold that never got above -5 C and reached -16 C.

I was constantly informed it was not cold. True enough – at Christmas it was -35 C and about a month ago the windchill hit -42 C.

Along with being blessed with Colt, we also had a week of barely any wind. The closest I came to a wind chill was a snowmobile ride across a frozen lake.

That’s fine with me. Baby steps are not only for grandchildren, but myself as well when it comes to an introduction to real cold.

And, yes, it is a dry cold.

I volunteered to clean horse pens for a friend of the kids and while dealing with fresh, and very frozen, manure, I was peeling off clothes, sweating even in -7 C.

The snow was so dry it reminded me of the fake, plastic ‘snow’ I use every year for my Christmas village – shiny and wisps away at the slightest breath.

In fact, we promised our other grandson, Nathan, a photo of an Alberta snowman, but it was nearly impossible to even make a starter snowball without good, soggy Nanaimo snow.

The end result was three small snowballs – made slightly slushy through body heat – piled on top of each other for a six-inch snowman.

Thankfully,  a little creative photography made it look much bigger than it was.

One of the highlights of the holiday was for city folk like us having a chance to take in nature right out the back door.

Tofield is ranch country and where we were staying, we had access to 16 hectares of forest steps from the house.

A look out the window provided a view of deer most days, and a lone coyote scampering across a field on another.

Bundling up early one morning and heading into the woods, I came face-to-face with a moose. It would be a tough call to say who was startled more. We stared at each other for a few seconds before it lumbered off over a hill.

This is all an everyday occurrence for our family and I could hear the “yeah, no big deal” thoughts running through their heads as we went on and on about it, but it was still pretty exciting.

If there was one downside to real winter, it was constantly having to bundle up to go outside. I get that way at home when on the rare occasion the snow sticks around.

So now I know the air is indeed dry and the sun shines a lot in between snow storms in Alberta.

The challenge now is to go out there – not at the tail end of winter – but deep in the heart of it and experience the true cold.

I can’t imagine it, but I think -35 C just might make me long for the warm wet coast.