Fucking March and her white panties. Saturday: two inches of the frigid white on the ground when I wake up. Who ordered this shit? Then there’s the -17° freeze-out and 200 feet of concrete to clear front and back. Up and out of bed, shake off the Friday sleep, shot of tea, toast; rattle into the denims and watchcap. Saturday morning walk around the neighbourhood and all’s good. Sun’s showing early these days and I’m not the only early riser out here. Fog coughs from post-breakfast mouths and the pom-pom toques and aluminum shovels are out in full force. Shovels sound like a chokehouse rhythm section: Scape. Pause. Scrape. Pause. The time between scrapes is what counts. White flurries get pushed into streets and front yards get covered in uneven stacks of packed white with ditches carved out for walkways. Bootprints are frozen into ice.
I have the camera with me, but the sky is gray. It’s hard to tell if the sky is actually on. The ceiling could be 1000 feet, could be 10,000. Can’t create an image with no contrast. Guy over there running his dog in the school field. Beautiful black mutt, looks like a Lab cross – strong and temporarily free in the snow. Dog comes up to me for a quick sniff. I give her a head pat then she leaves, tongue everywhere. Owner gives me a cheerful hello and wave, I throw him a nod. The soccer field’s cleared off and the snow is stacked in neat windrows bordering the playing field. This strikes me as odd and it’s something that you would only see in Canada, I’m sure.
Schoolhouse windows look hopeful. No light behind them but there’s grade five art pasted: Snowflakes, easter eggs, bunnies, dogs. One window has a group of different-colored hand cutouts taped on it. Small hands waving to the gray and white. Plenty of time for that later in life.
Across the street an old man is shoveling. Looks too old to be doing it, but he’s going at a good clip. He alternates between a scraper and a shovel. Corn broom against the house. Wipes his nose into his mitted hand. His wife lingers in the window. He sees me across the street and stops for a moment. Leans against the handle of his shovel. His breath is visible and heavy. Throws me a half-salute and dives back into the labour. That’s the second person today who has acknowledged me. I give him a wave.
Damned monotone day. It could be noon. Could be 5pm. I run my mitts along the schoolyard chainlink as I make my way.
Trees and snow, Devonian Gardens, Devon, AB. March 2008.
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?