Frozen in time

Typically each winter, my husband and I escape to some far away, warm, loud southern destination. Truth be told, the darkness of December does something to our psyche and we embark on a quest to find the light (and to preserve what remains of our sanity).

Covid thwarted those plans this winter. And, we’ve been waging a battle with our minds to simply survive. We’re doing what we can to keep our spirits up and focus on the goodness in our lives.

Whilst we’ve made it to February and the days are lengthening day by day, we have not found much warmth this year. That’s alright. Because with the plummeting mercury, we’ve also had mountains of snow. And, Helsinki is supremely special when covered in white, fluffy, freshly fallen snow. We welcome that new snow, each time it swirls and each time it falls. We say bring it on. It just makes the light all the brighter when shining against the purest white, sparkling snow.

But, it is freezing out. If the temp exceeded -10C / 14F (without the wind chill, mind, which was closer to -20C / -4F when I headed out), I’d be surprised. But, with that colder air, we do get sunshine. And, oh my, friends. That sunshine is gloriously welcome. Give me freezing Arctic air over chilly and endless days of cloud cover any day, and twice on a Wednesday in February.

Because I am a runner girl, on my non-running days I tend to head out for at least a brisk walk. Today, was one of those days. But, more so, I had a plan today beyond just moving and getting some fresh air.

A few of our neighbours have created several community art projects, and I desperately wanted to try to capture some decent photos of at least one of them whilst it’s still around. So, I headed out today in three layers of winter gear to keep me warm and to enjoy that Arctic sun hanging low in the sky. I also kept my trusty Sony RX100 V zipped warmly inside my down jacket until I reached my destination, whilst also protecting my beloved and waning Nokia 8 close to my chest. And, I finally got some decent shots. [NB: On two previous recent outings with a similar objective, both my camera battery and phone died — it was so cold that neither could really take it for long at all. Lesson learnt.]

This ice ornament tree popped up more than a week ago, I think. Whilst out on a run, I spied a woman hanging ice ornaments in various shapes and sizes and colours on a completely bare tree. Those shapes and colours and ice-encased objects have increased seemingly exponentially since then to cover every branch within reach on one specific tree. Some are simply ice, whilst others have been coloured various shades and hues. Flowers such as tulips and carnations and roses along with twigs of pine and eucalyptus are also encased in ice. As a knitter, I was thrilled yesterday to discover that some bits of yarn have also now appeared. Each day, other passers-by stop and admire the ice ornaments and snap pictures of the tree, individual items and themselves with the tree. And, they smile. They stand and admire and smile. Those smiles are welcome. If I’m completely honest, I’ve redrawn my running map so that I can pass this specific tree every day now. It’s really just that lovely, regardless of weather and regardless of the presence or absence of sunshine.

Today, I also stumbled upon a little ice fort neighbourhood children seem to be constructing, one of whom was adding to the structure as I passed by and snapped a few pictures. It’s not very tall yet. But, I suspect it will be soon enough given that the temps are unlikely to rise too much for at least the next week to ten days. The ‘bricks’ are made using milk or yogurt cartons evidently, with tints and hues reminiscent of a rainbow. I didn’t realise until I returned home that a tulip was stuck into and frozen within one of the bricks. It’s thoroughly lovely, made even more special because it’s enticed children to take an active role in deciding its final composition.

These little community art projects are such a treat at a time when bits of joy and delight are most welcome if not utterly necessary. These little bits of random public art really do bring a bit of joy to my world. I suspect I am not alone judging by the faces of those I pass near each of these objects and based on a random conversation I had yesterday whilst stopping to take a few pictures.

An older gentleman I passed near the ice ornament tree commented that he’s seen so many things like this this winter, objects made from frozen precipitation by members of communities. Not just here in Helsinki, but in other places as well. He described stumbling upon snow graffiti for the first time when he was in Estonia recently. He seemed to think Covid is inspiring us all to find ways to entertain ourselves and bring a bit of goodness and loveliness to us and to share with others.

I think he might be right.

In Espoo, not far from us here in Helsinki, a few residents created some rather impressive snow art in a local golf course. And, earlier just after our first serious snow fall, the entire neighbourhood around our flat was dotted with snowmen and women and various large and small sculptures and creatures made entirely of snow.

Snow delights me. But, seeing evidence of others’ delight and their own interpretations of the loveliness of snow and other frozen objects reminds me that I am not alone. We, as members of a community, are not alone, even if we cannot gather or meet up at the moment. As we all isolate and socially distance from one another, we need and search for reminders that we are not in fact alone in our loneliness. And, these little reminders are so, so welcome. We might be collectively frozen in time, repeating endless days of remaining safe and hopefully healthy, working and schooling from home and via Zoom. But, we are not alone.

So, here’s to those who are creating these bits of brilliant frozen community art projects. And, here’s to all things frozen. Even if it’s time.

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