Sunshine and fog

February 4, 2012

All is sunshine this morning. It glistens through the thick hoar frost on the Amur maple grove next door and picks diamonds out of the soft white snow.  Glenn, who has been through a difficult surgery this week, is on the mend in the hospital and our daughters are both here with us. The girls and I will spend the day with Glenn and then go out for “dinner” this evening, but more to talk and laugh than eat. We revel in the aura of happiness that surrounds our family when we are together.

This has been a week of fog and mist. It swirled around the streets, collecting under lampposts and coating the trees. It obscured the road ahead and shrouded the world in mystery. It hid the ugliness of melting snow and sand, even in the cruelest part of town. I was thankful for its comforting blanket which muffled threat and unkindness.








The weather is strange. We had four straight days of that fog, but the day before the fog moved in, we were visited by sun dogs, which put on a brilliant display on either side of the sun. Maybe the unusual weather has something to do with recent solar activity, although most scientists say that solar storms have a greater effect on communications and technology than on weather.

Nevertheless, NASA predicts that 2012 will be the year of massive sun storms, part of an 11-year cycle, ramping up steadily until next year. Last Sunday, January 29, was one of those nights, when there was a solar flare that hurled billions of tons of plasma toward earth, the strongest such flare since May 2005.

The projected activity on the sun will magnify the chances of seeing the aurora borealis here in Winnipeg this February and March. We often see the lights, sometimes in summer. They illuminate the sky with swirly white rays, that fill the viewer with wonder. It’s just another bonus of living in a northern clime.


Things Of The Earth And Sky

Winnipeg must be the flyway for all sorts of romantic international flights because you see the contrails of these high flying jets lingering in the morning and evening air, streaking the sky with white lines that slowly dissipate into wisps that form interesting cloud patterns against the blue.

Sitting in my garden each evening, I look at the sky and marvel at the beauty of this celestial travel. Where are these people going? What business or adventures are they pursuing? Do they wonder at our antlike existence below them in the morning or evening sun?

My garden doesn’t care. It is focused on things of the earth; of plants and insects and animals getting their business done now because winter is only a whisper away and they need to reproduce as fast as they can.

The plants bloom fiercely and stunningly; theirs is such a short season in the northern clime, and the sun, so bright and hot, urges them on at a frantic pace. It stays out well into the night or what would be night in more southern parts of the world. When it becomes dark at 6 p.m. in Miami or Nassau or Cartagena, we are still basking in the sunlight and will do so for many more hours; near the summer solstice, it can stay light until eleven and dawn comes at 3 a.m. Do the jetliner people know of these wonders they are missing?

I once arrived in Whitehorse at 1 a.m. on June 21. The sky was a fierce blue with a ball of fire still lighting the night as bright as day. There was a strange sense of urgency in the air; the sun was forcing its energy upon us and people were responding by staying up and carrying on their abnormal routines in the middle of the night. The locals said that the newbies covered their windows with tinfoil so they could sleep.

For now, well into July, the urgency of June has passed and we are savouring each day of summer. The garden has lost its freshness – it’s amazing how quickly it can begin to look tawdry if someone isn’t deadheading and cutting back overgrowth every day. The lamb’s ears, so sprightly a week ago, have flowered and are looking tired. The brilliant yellow lilies are beginning to die away and the phlox is just beginning to bud. The celandine poppy, blooming so happily since May, has finally resigned, its yellow blossoms turned to vigorous seeds and its oak-like leaves already beginning, poppy-like, to fade and die back until next year.

But all is not over. The ivy that I “pinched” from a wall in Ottawa years ago is only halfway up the southern wall of the house. It is not hardy here, of course, and takes much longer to get started than the Englemann’s Ivy and the Virginia creeper that occupies the other half of the wall. The hostas are just coming into bloom and the fantastic filipendula still has only promising buds. Its frothy pink flowers are patiently waiting their turn to shine over the ligularia which will show off later. The annuals are spilling out of their pots, still looking fresh and young, and the feather reed grass has yet to send up its pretty plumes.

Meanwhile, the sky has cleared now; no clouds and no contrails. The evening is still luminous at 9 p.m. as the sun makes its way toward the horizon. A hush is falling over the land, muffling even the far off sounds of cars on the perimeter highway. It will soon be time for sleep.