From Texas to Manitoba, Canada
Fall colors in Brandon, Manitoba
From hot, sweaty South Texas to snowy Canada!
All my friends have been asking me how things are since I left Texas in the middle of a sweltering September. So much has transpired since then. This weekend saw a snowstorm which dropped a pretty good amount of snow and this morning’s temperature is -16⁰ C (feels like -26 with the wind-chill factor). These temperatures are completely new experiences for me! My excitement as snow began to fall was met with looks of amusement on the faces of Brandon residents. They all laugh when they hear that I have not experienced snow. When I say it’s cold outside, they say I ‘aint seen nothin’ yet! I am still freshly entranced with the snow and wonder about its nature and precipitation.
What the heck happened?
Brandon, Manitoba, is part of the great plains of Canada. The land is flat and the wind blows through here pretty constantly. Autumn leaves do not remain long on the trees as they are blown off prematurely, so the fall season is short. I arrived here at the beginning of the short autumn, and witnessed blue skies and green trees soon turn to colors of fall and all too quickly, to the beginning of what is a LONG winter in this part of the world. After the extended heat of sultry South Texas, this is quite a change. My cat, Mr. Hobbes, is wondering what the heck happened!
A respite from the weather.
Yesterday, my friends and I attended a matinee performance of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Brandon’s Centennial Concert Hall. We drove through snow-choked streets and once again, I pinched myself and wondered whether I was actually present here in Canada, or just dreaming. All my previous snow experience has been through pictures, TV or movies, except for the time when it snowed in Johannesburg when I was seven years old. My Dad came in to my bedroom to wake me up one morning. He drew back the curtains and said, “Come and look out the window.” I was curious. I hopped out of bed and took in a deep breath as I peeked out and was greeted by a white landscape. My Dad’s marvelous garden was blanketed with a thin layer of snow and I was totally entranced!
A real winter.
I gratefully thank my wonderful friends for ensuring my preparedness for the harsh rigors of a Canadian winter by taking me shopping for gloves, hats, scarves, thermal undies and a useful three-season jacket, not to mention boots! Since my arrival here in friendly Brandon, Manitoba, I have witnessed the end of a beautiful autumn and the beginning of what promises to be a COLD winter. For all my friends who don’t know Johannesburg, I will comment that I think the weather there (in South Africa), is about the best I have experienced in the world. My travels have taken me to Melbourne-Australia; London-England; Edinburgh-Scotland; San Diego-California; and of course, Corpus Christi-Texas. Johannesburg has four distinct seasons and none of the extremes of temperature that I have witnessed in all the aforementioned places. Brandon’s weather is a continuing education.
It's actually SNOWING!
I have found myself staring out the window pondering the nature of snow. It is still fabulous to me to watch the snow fall. It is also a new experience to brush the snow off the car, scrape ice off the windows and free the wheel-wells from the mixture of snow, ice and mud, which collects when driving through the slush. The first time I brushed snow off the car, I did not realize I needed to free the bristles of snow, so the next time I took the brush to dust off snow, the bristles were frozen solid!! I won’t be caught the next time! Walking through snow is also interesting. What looks like icing sugar dusted over roofs, roads, grass and trees, is very cold and WET! The neighbor chose the best way to free his vehicle from the snow… with a leaf blower! Woooohoooo! I see people around the neighborhood shoveling the snow from the front of their houses, and there are also snow blowers which will do the job for you – something totally new for me to watch. It kind of reminds me of a lawnmower, but seems to be much more fun.
So THIS is snow country!
You know you’re in snow country when the sign at the traffic light tells you where the stop line is, as all painted signs on the road surface are obliterated. You know you’re in snow country when you park your car and there are electric outlets waiting for cars to plug into, and the parking bay lines are indicated by yellow lines painted on the plug boards so you can actually see them! You know you’re in snow country when you drive past bobcats (no, not the animal), and what you think might be jet skis are actually snowmobiles! You know you’re in snow country when you learn that dog kennels are indoors and the carwash is enclosed also! It amuses me when I see these things and I have AHA moments!
Ahhhh.... the colors of music!
Driving to the concert hall, I noted the whites and greys of everything and after walking through the cold, was relieved to enter one of my favorite places – a concert hall where people assemble to appreciate the artistry of music. A Scottish dance was taking place in the lobby, but I was being introduced to new friends at the time and missed it. Music and dance have always been favorites of mine, and the contrast of the musicians on stage, all dressed in black and sporting a red poppy in commemoration of Veterans’ Day, the light reflecting warmly off the wooden paneling on stage and the deep red fabric of the seats in the large auditorium made me sigh with relief and settle in to enjoy the musical offerings. I did wonder about the savvy jacket which was hung in the coat check, my very warm and heavy boots and the bag in which I had stowed my gloves, scarf and hat… but soon was whisked away by the beautiful music.
All three pieces were new to me in the offerings entitled: “Scottish Symphony: A Selkirk Settler’s Celebration.” A world premiere of Brandon born composer, Sid Robinovitch called “Red River,” conjured up a wonderful homage to Manitoba’s Red River community, complete with harp, flute, timpani and full orchestra, and was a sheer delight. I was accompanied by the spirit of my late-husband, who used to play trombone. He would have loved this offering. I also felt my departed parents in attendance and marveled at this experience. As my ears were enraptured by the harmonies and the beat of the native drum, my memories of past relationships flooded through me and I was lost in reverie. I was also blown away by the fact that here I was, finally sitting with my best friend from high school days, enjoying the symphony. Being with her and her hubby was a rare and intensely comforting treat. I revel in that feeling each day.
We're snow happy!
Robinovitch, Beethoven and Mendelsohhn
The second offering was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which I was not familiar with. I enjoyed it thoroughly, Beatrice Rana’s deft and moving performance at the piano held me entranced. I listened with delight and discovered that I recognized some of Mozart’s influence in the piece. The program notes confirmed my suspicions, much to my pleasure. After Intermission, last but not least, was Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 called “Scottish.” This piece described a walking tour he had undertaken of the Scottish Highlands. A visit to a castle-in-ruins in Holyrood, where Mary Stuart had lived and the misty moods of Scotland, punctuated this piece of music with which I had also been unfamiliar. Like a person in a desert who thirsts for water, my thirst for music was quenched by this fabulous concert. Upon its completion, we donned our gloves, scarves, hats and coats, and my friends and I emerged from the brightly lit concert hall to the darkness outside. It felt like 8 p.m. but was, in fact, around 5 p.m. We drove over to Starbucks for a special coffee. I tried a tasty Peppermint Mocha, and then we returned home. I would say that my immersion into the culture of Brandon, Manitoba, is progressing extremely well. I greatly look forward to attending “Rigoletto” in Winnipeg within the next two weeks.
I am happy!
I am happy to report that I am delighted to be working at Brandon Regional Hospital. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming and I have been hard at work since my arrival. My friends have been hugely welcoming and helpful in my adjustment to Canada and my cat, Mr. Hobbes is safe and comfortable downstairs, as long as the door to upstairs is closed, and he is safe from the “wolf” in the form of the delightful Border Collie called Whisky. I also found myself connected with some fabulous new friends who own horses and along I went to horse ride after about 30 years since I last sat in a saddle. To my delight, I had the new experience of grooming and tacking the horse, which has been a childhood dream. I keep pinching myself and even though I miss friends and family that are so far away, I am happy.