I'm glad we decided to make a day trip to Windrift Farms a couple weeks ago, because that was the last time being outside for more than 5 minutes was bearable. To give you a fair comparison, the coldest temperature on Earth has been measured in Antarctica by infrared sensors (since it's too cold to actually have research stations there) at -94.7C (-135.8F). Here in Winnipeg this month we have had several consecutive days of -40 to -46 C (-50F) temperatures when windchill is factored in. So, as you can imagine, it isn't quite as deadly cold where you need a special apparatus to breath, but still extreme where exposed skin can freeze in 5 minutes.
Growing up in Manitoba I assumed everyone's definition of really cold was basically the same. It seemed silly to even talk about it. Winter is really really cold. Like, walk for a few minutes into the wind and there will be ice forming in your eyelashes and inside your nostrils. Todd walked a few blocks last night and there were literally icicles hanging off his mustache. And it just isn't about looking a mess. Every year people die of exposure over the long cold winter. Now, this kind of weather doesn't happen in all of Canada. The closer inland you get, the colder it becomes. Coastal provinces have it really easy, and those of us who settled on the prairies, we have it rough. Real rough.
So why would we live here? How can we stand it? The answer is, we just do. We don't think about it. When you're born into this environment, you know that enjoying fresh air and talking long walks belong to the days of spring, summer and fall. My car literally screams when I start it if it isn't plugged in. No, I don't' have an electric car. ALL cars have to be plugged in here so that the engine is perpetually kept above a certain temperature and will start after a long cold night. Dealing with up to 5 months of ice and snow every year becomes ingrained in who we are. Honestly, as a Winnipegger I'm a bit embarrassed to even make mention of something like cold weather. It's kind of a "no, duh". I only bring it up here because of how I have come to know the day to day experience of people all over the world via social media, and more specifically North America. It has been eye opening seeing the varied degrees in which one defines "cold".
On one hand, I feel this ridiculous sense of pride in our burden. Some crocodile Dundee boast of "That's not Cold, THIS is COLD!". On the other hand, self doubt. Why would I choose to live my life in an environment which is fairly inhospitable a good portion of the year?
The answer is pretty simple. Family, Security, Opportunity, Community, Home. It's why so many people from tropical climates immigrate here. As truly cold and long as our winters are, our spring, summer and fall are supremely lovely. We cherish them. That's a wonderful way to live - full of gratitude. And we have the freedom to own property, afford a home, find meaningful work, and plan a future. We can travel because the cost of living in this place allows for it. We can get ahead. It has been a sacrifice that settlers to this country have chosen for hundreds of years. But above all, we belong to one another. There is always room for us, even if we part for some time, we'll be welcome back with open arms. That feeling is incredibly warm, even on the coldest day in February.