Weather Update No. 5

It’s with a heavy heart that I bid a solid farewell to winter.  Sigh.

I know, it’s been on its way out for several weeks so I shouldn’t be sad, but now it’s really gone and there’s no denying it.  The changes are obvious; some came gradually and some have come all of a sudden. However they have come, they herald the end of my absolute favourite time of year.

Yeah, I said it.  I’m from the Caribbean and I’ve never lived in winter before, not really (northern California winter doesn’t count).  Sure, I’ve visited winter, but I’ve never really lived in any season except summer.  So, as much as I suspected that winter would be my favourite season, I felt that I had no grounds for making that declaration to anyone, particularly to those who do live in winter.  Well, now I’ve survived my first Yakutian winter and I’m making my declaration loud and clear.  As harsh as it is, as difficult as life in a -50⁰C climate can be, I love winter!  Of course, some will argue that I practically live where I work and that all of my needs are met through nearby conveniences.  But I don’t care what anyone says to try to detract from my love of the best season of all.  There’s a beauty in it that touches something in me that no other season does, and I can’t explain it beyond that.

So how have things changed with the onset of spring?  Let’s begin with the most obvious thing: the temperature.  It feels like we skipped the -30⁰C temperatures altogether.  One week it was -42⁰C and it seems like the next week it was in the -20s.  When I left my flat today, it was -18⁰C and later in the afternoon it should get up to -2⁰C.  As I walked to the coffee shop this morning, I thought to myself, “Spring in Yakutsk feels like winter in New York.”

This means that only the little kids are still wearing ski pants.  Most of us grownups abandoned our ski pants at least a month ago.  I only brought mine out for my one-day hike in the woods and romp in the snow a couple of weeks ago then I ditched them again.  I’ve shed a couple of other layers, too.  Some days I go out wearing just my regular shirt and coat, with no sweater between those layers.  Some days, I don’t bother wearing my heavy fleece-lined tights under my jeans.  Or I just wear my heavy tights and a skirt.  Today I’m wearing my thigh high wool socks and my jeans.  That’s it.  Even the thought of adding another layer makes me feel like I’d die from heat stroke.

I’ve also switched out my fleece and wool gloves for my light New York winter gloves (hahahaha!  Light!).  And I’m just waiting to ditch my knit cap; that should happen in the next couple of weeks.  I’ll also probably detach the hood from my coat soon.  And I’m sure that before the next weather update, I’ll put away that coat altogether and move back to wearing my light autumn jacket.

And speaking of coats, if I didn’t love living here for any other reason, the fashion show of coats would do it.  During the winter, everyone hunkered down into their thickest, warmest coats.  We all basically looked the same, wearing different colours of the same coats with some variations in style.  But basically, they were pretty standard and didn’t particularly catch the eye.  Now, though, the warmer temperatures means that cute coats are on the rise.  I can’t walk a block without seeing at least one coat that I’d buy in a heartbeat if it was practical for me to do that.  The styles and colours have me dreaming new dreams, people!

The changing season has also brought more daylight.  I took this photo at 7:55 pm last Wednesday evening as I left school.

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I was surprised to see it was still light at 7:55 pm since it was definitely dark at that time just the day before

Most people are cheering for the increased daylight hours but this has been a little bit tough on me in the mornings, to be honest.  Sunrise is at around 6 am (for now), which means that even if I go to bed after midnight, the natural light forcing its way around my closed drapes wakes me up anyway.  Clearly, I need to invest in a good eye mask because the one I have now just annoys me while I’m sleeping and therefore doesn’t help.

Another thing that has changed is the number of cars around town.  Remember how I told you a few weather updates ago about how the cars had disappeared from the parking lot at my place because people put their cars away for the winter?  Well, they’re coming back.  Throughout the entire winter, every night the number of cars that were parked in my lot maxed out at about twelve.  On most evenings now, there are about thirty cars out there and every day the number grows.  It’s the same everywhere in town.

There are other changes that make me sad if I dwell on them. For example, a couple of days ago, I left my place to walk to meet our band for practice and I realised that I was walking on concrete and asphalt instead of crunching through snow because there’s barely any snow on the sidewalks anymore.  The icicles that have been hanging from buildings for months are melting or have already melted away.

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Icicles melting off the roof and naked branches that were blanketed in snow just a couple of weeks before

Last week, we had to be careful as we walked around because there were slippery patches on the pavement but that only lasted for a few days before it was just concrete and asphalt.

Thankfully, there hasn’t been any slush.  The snow doesn’t seem to be melting so much as it seems to just be disappearing.  It’s not turning wet all over the place; it just seems to be getting less and less.  And as the snow disappears, the dirt appears.  It’s everywhere and now I understand why all the cars were dirty when I got here last August.  The snow laden trees of winter are now just naked skeletons awaiting the spring bloom.

Yakutsk really shines in the winter.  Not to be harsh or anything, but it’s at its most beautiful when it’s covered in snow.  I remember that as I walked around town during the winter, I couldn’t catch a bad view anywhere.  Even looking down a dinky alley, something about the fog and snow made it beautiful.  Now, not so much.

Anyway, I think I’m only one of a very few people who misses the winter.  In fact, only one person has agreed with me about winter.  Everyone else is happy it’s over.  People are doing more outdoor activities now that it’s warmer.  Everyone is out skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating on the lakes around town.  Some people are just walking more.  And to answer your question before you ask it, no, I haven’t been skating on any of the lakes yet.  I’ve been too busy keeping up with life to get to that but hopefully I’ll be able to do it at least once before the ice starts breaking up, which I’m actually looking forward to watching.

Interestingly enough, we had some springy/wintry weather over the last few days; it was very windy for two or three days – which I hear is very unusual for Yakutsk – then last night we had a magical few hours of heavy snow.  When I went out this morning, there were at least four inches on the ground.  I was happy to see winter hanging on by its fingernails.

But go it must, and that makes me a little bit sad.  However, I understand that the other seasons are also necessary in order for life to progress as it should.  So I take a deep breath, release it and let go of my sorrow over the winter just ended as I call to mind all of the brand new adventures that spring will bring.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ASV)

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