Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Viewpoint: Warmth provided through acts of kindness in the Shuswap

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

It’s -40 C in Dease Lake.

It was the same yesterday. I learned this when I arrived home from work and proceeded to warm my hands while talking about Salmon Arm’s -26 C weather with my mother-in-law, who happens to be from Dease. Thankfully, she managed to get herself and her pets to our house before Northern B.C. communities were hit by this snap of extreme cold. She was quick to tell me a little bit about what life is like in that kind of temperature.

People love to talk about the weather, and that includes sharing personal experiences with extreme cold. For me, it was 2004, when I was working for the paper in 100 Mile House, trying to photograph dog sled races. Pretty sure the temperature was around -27 C (colder than -30 C with windchill). I had to take my gloves off to use my camera. My fingers become numb pretty fast in warmer temperatures and, well, I recall thinking I never want to do that again.

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Speaking of winter photography, I’m reminded of former Observer writer/photographer James Murray and his Great Outdoors column. Typically around this time of year he’d write something about his lack of love for winter, and how he’d be spending his time waiting for the return of fishing season. I expect that hasn’t changed. I’ve come to appreciate this hibernation instinct, at least at times when it’s -20 or colder. But for warmer days, when time allows, I look forward to cross-country skiing.

This may seem weird, but I think I’ve come to prefer winter in the Shuswap (extreme cold snaps excluded) more than summer. And I am very thankful/grateful to be at a place in my life where I can say this.

We’ve all heard how life can change in an instant. It seems that change typically isn’t for the better. I know this. I think most of us do. I think it’s this understanding, and maybe the empathy that comes with imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes (if you haven’t already been there), that drives those who have, to help those who have not. We see a lot of this during Shuswap winters, and so far this one has been no exception. Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard numerous stories about individuals, families, organizations and businesses going out of their way to help those less fortunate – giving because they can, and because there’s need. While such acts may not solve systemic problems, they are usually appreciated and received with gratitude. Not just for the physical gift – be it a new/used vehicle, a toy, warm clothes or a hot meal – but also for being treated with respect and kindness.

Really, the best stories about the cold involve getting out of the cold. Thankfully, people in Salmon Arm stepped up to provide a temporary form of shelter during this latest cold snap for people living rough, and another shelter with beds is expected to open soon.
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