On Thursday night I attended an fundraising art auction for my wife’s employer, the Regina Early Learning Centre, and was surprised to come away with this painting by Henry Beaudry.

My parents were teachers, and I grew up in the forests of Canada’s northern shield, northern Saskatchewan and the MacKenzie valley in the Northwest Territories (NWT). This is quite different than the treeless and wind-swept tundra that might be most people’s image of the Arctic. The Yukon and western NWT have trees all the way to the Arctic ocean. And there is generally not much wind at all.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of walking comfortably in mid-day darkness, on a windless minus 10 F day (minus 25 C), with the only light coming from a false dawn on the horizon and the northern lights (Aurora Borealis), and the only sound being the crunch of your feet. If you stand still, you can even hear the whisper of the borealis. It’s a memory that never goes away.

Henry’s painting is set further south than where I lived. In the communities I lived in, the Mounties did not have horses; they were too remote from agricultural areas to have access to feed. Otherwise, the scene is very evocative for me.

This posting’s title is from “The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill” by Robert W. Service. I should mention that once it gets to -40 (which is the same temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit) or below, it feels seriously cold even without a wind. Actually, it rarely drops to 40 below when there is a wind, since the wind itself raises the temperature (though, of course, the wind chill is much lower).

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