New Year's Chinook

by Cathy Rakchaev from Mundare, AB
Jan 5, 13

There was a December, back when I lived in Calgary, that was memorably, unbearably cold. The kind of cold that penetrates to the very core of your being and you think you will never get warm again. It was a real chore getting dressed to go outside each day. So many clothes. So many layers. The car tethered by an electrical cord so that the block heater would allow the vehicle to start without too much strain.  

When I went outside on the last day of December the sound of my boots on the crisp snow was loud and crunchy. Every footstep sounded like a series of firecrackers. It was so cold it was hard to breathe. I had a double scarf over my mouth. It was 25 degrees below zero. Even my eyes were cold. The sky may have been blue and the sun may have been shining, but there were ice crystals floating eerily in the air like snow flakes, you could hear them hitting the ground and you could see them drifting into little piles.  

Coming inside was a momentary reprieve, until you realized that even with the furnace and fireplace blazing, you had to wrap yourself in warm clothing and a comforter to feel a measure of relief.  

Cold air oozed through the cracks in my front door. I taped fuzzy strips of rags around the sides of the frame and pushed a rolled rug across the bottom and it didn’t make a big difference. The metal door efficiently conducted the cold into the entrance and it drifted up the stairs. 

And so, I decided to spend New Year’s Eve, cocooned in my favourite chair. I would sip tea and watch TV rather than join the brave souls who congregated outside for the midnight countdown.

But I had a premonition that something wonderful might happen that New Year’s Day. Sure enough, when I opened my bedroom drapes, the sky was full of grey clouds; whizzing by and changing shapes. It looked like a Chinook, though the world was obviously still frozen. 

Fearing I would be greeted by an icy wind, I dressed warmly to walk to Mass. When I stepped outside, however, the sky had turned crystal clear blue. Ever so tentatively, I lowered my scarf. When I did I took a deep breath and inhaled warm, balmy air. I opened my collar and my coat, I removed my scarf, and my gloves. It was like a spring day.  

The squeaky crunch of frozen snow had been replaced by the sound of rustling pine – there was water streaming off them like fountains as the ice melted.  

There was not a soul on the sidewalk, nor a vehicle on the street: just the rush of warm wind and the sound of singing birds. I took a shortcut through a park and I sunk up to my knees through the once-hard crust. When I got to my church it took me 10 minutes to cool down.

On the way home the sun and the wind were in my face, kissing my cheeks with every step. It was an exhilarating way to start the New Year. Calgary was still sleeping but the trees, wind and birds were celebrating. I saw a young couple sitting on their balcony, still in their pyjamas, holding on to one another and sharing a cup of coffee. There was a faint sound of wind chimes from someone’s porch. I went into my home, opened all the windows and sat on my balcony, welcoming in the New Year, good health, and the gift of life; thankful for the unexpected blessing of a Calgary Chinook on New Year’s Day.