On the bright side

Before I lace up my boots, put on my gloves, hat, and scarf, and finally burrito myself into an extremely warm, but restricting down jacket, I sit on the steps in the front room and put on Daisy's booties. She knows the routine. Her tails wags in excitement as I scrunch her fluffy feet into the contraptions that keep her pads from freezing as temperatures plummet to as low as -40 with wind chill. At this point, it doesn't matter whether you're taking Celsius or Fahrenheit. It's all the same.

I open the door and brace myself for the cold. The insides of my nostrils immediately freeze, a bizarre sensation I had never experienced until a month ago, but now something I hardly seem to notice once I get walking. Around me the wind pulls the dry snow off the trees and roofs, twirling it through the air before letting it fall to the ground where I crunch over it with my boots as I begin the familiar walk to work.

Ice Hut No. 401a. Winnipeg Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2010. Richard Johnson

Ice Hut No. 401a. Winnipeg Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2010. Richard Johnson

Down the hill from the house to the main street we go. Me, taking careful steps after one too many spills, and Daisy, clip clopping along seemingly unfazed by the cold. The sun has just peaked over the tree line. Howey Bay is dotted with ice fishing shacks--odd little structures that on the weekends will surely be puffing smoke (of the wood and weed variety) from their chimneys.

Ice Hut No. 155. Petrie Island, Orleans, Ontario. 2008. Richard Johnson

Ice Hut No. 155. Petrie Island, Orleans, Ontario. 2008. Richard Johnson

We walk past The Lakeview diner, smelling of bacon, and the old inn (now rooms-for-rent) where empty trucks run in the parking lot, warming up while their drivers wait inside. We go by the flower shop, which I love to remind Charlie is right by our house, and the travel agency where pictures of bikini-clad women lounging on beaches stare down at us bundled-up pedestrians. It's at this point that my legs begin to lose feeling. Crap, I forgot to wear my second pair of pants.

Ice Hut No. 497. Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan. 2011. Richard Johnson

Ice Hut No. 497. Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan. 2011. Richard Johnson

This is my morning commute. It isn't always fun, and there are some days I find myself muttering I hate this, I hate this, I hate this until I catch myself and remember to look up from the sidewalk and take it all in. This morning was one of those days. I was tired and a wee bit grumpy when I stepped out the door, but at the top of the hill I looked out at the frozen bay and saw seven deer running in a straight line across the ice. They were so in sync and part of me expected to see someone in a sleigh being pulled behind them. Before I could even think about grabbing my camera, they were out of sight.

This, I think to myself, beats a drive to work any day. 

Ice Hut No. 427a. Riverton, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2010. Richard Johnson

Ice Hut No. 427a. Riverton, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. 2010. Richard Johnson

One thing is for sure: it is, excuse my language, fucking cold here. Frigid, but also beautiful in a way that is so different from any beach scape or mountain vista. I recently came across these photos of ice shacks taken all over Canada by photographer Richard Johnson and was reminded that you can find beauty in things that you might normally overlook. The vibrant colours and unexpected aesthetic appeal in these often shoddily-crafted huts was just what I needed to see after a few uninspired weeks of photography. 

Whether it's about life or art, every day this place challenges me to take a look on the bright side. It's not always picture-perfect or glamorous, but it's real and beautiful in its own imperfect way.