Robert L. Peters

17 April 2012

Shared musings… God's Frozen People

Bob Roach is a designer colleague who often shares his thoughts and views on the GDC Listserv, an active “conversation” amongst several hundred mostly-Canadian (and seemingly mostly west-coast) folks who practice or are interested in graphic design. His “musings” today on the relationship between cold and what it means to be Canadian rang so true that I felt compelled to share. Thanks Bob.

“As you west coasters doubtless know, this historically warm and nearly non-existent winter we southern Ontarians have just ‘sprung’ from has left us all grateful to global warming for lower fuel bills, fewer fender-benders, and a taste of what life on the Pacific coast might feel like. Not surprisingly, real estate prices also rose dramatically (see?).

But maybe because of this unexpected reprieve from inclemency, I’ve begun to speculate and muse more about what ‘traditional’ Canadian winter weather really means to us from a cultural perspective. And even a personal creative one.

As a kid, freezing in low-tech gumboots, on my 2 mile walk uphill (both ways) to school, I used to fume about the injustice of being born in such an obviously-flawed climate. Who’s idea was it to make all of us Canadians, “God’s Frozen People,” anyhow? Why, if I ran the circus…

As I matured—er, that is… as I at least, aged—I began to reflect more about the less discussed benefits of living in a land where every year, we are forced to face the God-awful reality that the god of winter weather, at least judging from the package, clearly was not a benevolent god.

Or was he?

There’s something about seasonally delineated climatic switches that builds an awareness, connection and respect for some quality of our land that goes way beyond the weather-chats and charts that we all small-yak about when things drift out of the comfort of room temp zone.

There’s the visual transformative nature of winter. We sentimentalize it, but nonetheless it’s there, and very powerful in its scale and awesome, often terrifying beauty. But how many of us take the time to really study it for it’s full range of wonder and awe— and respect?

Digging deeper, we get into the whole transformative power that the “cold, lean months” impose upon our social and behavioural structure. As a species that did not evolve in these climes, we become keenly aware of the dependency and better survival odds we owe to such adaptions as community, sharing, safety and all the infrastructure we (and our ancestors) have invested to maintain these supports.

It might even be argued that the classic Canadian winter is one of the strongest influencing factors that forged and distinguishes us as a society with values markedly different from our southern neighbours. It’s hard not to be humbled by the collective power of community if you’ve ever had an engine fail while driving somewhere between Moosejaw and Saskatoon, mid-January, and looked up to see a plow, and a couple of good Samaritan drivers pull over to help. Not sure you could say that kind of feeling is as universal south of the 49th.

I guess I’ve come to view the Canadian winter as the introverted sociopath of seasons. On the surface, it’s inhospitable, cold, and unforgiving. But given the proper time, and mood— it can be dazzling in its generosity of spirit.

Anyhow, that’s my muse for today. If anything, it should teach you to never mix antifreeze with good Scotch.”

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