White Madness


Living in a cold northern climate, somewhere near the 53rd, you’d think a person would be used to and comfortable with the long, cold, gray, long, cold  winters; shoveling your driveway and sidewalks during the snow fall instead of waiting for the white stuff to stop dropping because you know if you don’t, there will be twice as much snow by morning making shoveling a high health risk activity; starting your car and letting it warm up for at least an hour and still having to chisel a three inch thick layer of frost off the windows (that’s if it starts at all); relinquishing your high heels and hair dos for mucklucks and toques; standing in front of the south facing window nest to your tropical plants to absorb as much of the 4 hours of sunshine you might get in a day and spending most of your bleak winter days reminding yourself of the reasons you stay living in this frigid climate.  Letting yourself get lost and stuck in this downward spiral of sub zero torture can and will lead to the dreaded ‘winter blues’.

I think its safe to assume that a great number of the brave northerners are here, not to spite the long winters, but to live it.  For some the first snowfall marks the beginning of the most enjoyable season filled with lift tickets, crampons, dogsleds, hockey sticks, skis, snowmobiles and ice augers. Dedicated winter lovers spend their summers training and gearing up for the activities they love while the rest of us sun worshipers continue to kid ourselves into believing the long warm days of summers will last forever.  It’s the latter group of people who need to be proactive in the prevention of what I’m going to refer to as White Madness.

To prevent White Madness, or at least to pretend to not be afflicted by it, you must seek out and indulge yourself with as many jollities as possible, and to begin this treatment even before the first snowfall. Use the summer, in fact, to make a list of the indoor, or if you’re feeling brave, outdoor activities that please you.  Follow in the footsteps of the winter worshiping weirdos and gather all the tools and gear necessary for your chosen treatment plan and be sure to have all the directions, videos and manuals available and ready.  It’s important to start early because, although not impossible, it’s far more difficult to overcome white madness later in the season after it has already set in.  It’s also important to enlist the support and involvement of the people closest to you; your spouse, your family, your friends and neighbours. Not unlike beating a drug or alcohol addiction, White Madness is not something you can overcome alone.  The very core of White Madness is loneliness.  Making a point of surrounding yourself with the people you love is key to a happy winter.
Understanding that the current season is a lost cause for me, due to the fact that I was not prepared for the added trigger of geographical isolation, I can only do my best to press on and hope for the best (and spring).  I’ve been lazy this winter with my chosen activity, photography.  Its been just too darn cold outside and being stuck in a grumpy slump it’s not easy to find anything worth taking a picture of indoors. I have from time to time, however, been able to find bits of beauty in my immediate surroundings both indoors and out, and permit myself the simple pleasure of creating, what I hope to be, an evocative image.  There is a small pond on our property, yet unnamed, that we have cleared and used for ice skating.  It was fun earlier in the season before the real and harsh winter arrived.  The ice was perfectly flat and pitch black, mostly clear with a few cracks and lots of tiny bubbles and vegetation frozen in the top layers.  I found it very joyful to peer into the ice to discover the patterns and contrasts created by the cracks and bubbles.  Checking on the pond at different times over the next few months I realized that just because the water was frozen doesn’t mean its frozen.  What I mean is the patterns in the ice were always changing.  More cracks and bubbles appeared, and just like my mental state, the scene became more and more feverish and lugubrious. The colour changed from black to a dark and threatening blue and the cracks appeared panic-stricken as they frantically crisscrossed each other looking for the way out, while the confused bubbles seemed to be both blocking and pointing the way.

In an attempt to make the remainder of the winter less melancholy I took the images of these chaotic patterns and created a collage that represents what I believe the inside of my brain looks like right now and share it with you.  I find post-processing of my images to be just as therapeutic as releasing my shutter and I like to apply new methods and techniques I’ve recently learned. Here I used new skills in copying and evenly spacing one image onto another to make a multi-image image. Although my goal in making an evocative image is usually to have you, the viewer, see what see what I saw and feel the emotions I felt while making the image, my goal in this case is a more self-serving one.  I just wanted to inject my bleak winter with a dose of pleasure to aid in the curing of my affliction of White Madness and the knowledge of any pleasure you experience from the image will be a delightful side effect.

Next winter will be different.  With intense preparations and a fresh outlook I might actually look forward to winter.

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