|Robin DeWan is a musician, writer and conceptual artist living on Suomenlinna. He holds a degree in literature from the University of California.
AH, AT LAST, a proper winter – miles of piles of snow, bone-chilling cold, and lasting well into the spring. Now, that’s what it’s all about. Some people are starting to think it surely must end any day now, but they just might have another think coming. This chill has teeth and looks like it intends to stick around, despite a few respites and regardless of what the calendar says.
They say Helsinki hasn’t experienced this kind of snowfall since the 60s, and throughout the country records on the length of frost periods have been broken right and left. Hey, this is Finland, what did you expect? At least now we get a glimpse of where all those rumours of polar bears roaming the streets of the capital and so on are coming from.
The huge piles of snow along the city streets have been a delight for kids. The yard out in front of where I live was a maze of tunnels and fortresses for a while. This kind of environment is fertile ground to inspire people of all ages. A winter like this reminds us of the fury and beauty of nature’s cycles. It’s about time the natural elements stepped in to remind us who’s boss. It’s as if the gods of winter got together a while back and devised a sneaky scheme: “Let’s give them a string of rather mild winters and then hit them with a humdinger. That’ll keep ‘em guessing.”
The snow removal forces nearly had to throw in the towel, or rather in this case, the shovel. At one point they were considering calling in the military for assistance (seriously). The ice breakers have also been on overdrive and their crews even threatened to strike. Ferry traffic between Finland and Sweden has stalled on at least one occasion due to thick ice. I was just waiting for the State to declare a national emergency and signal for international help. Somehow, though, most everything stayed open and kept right on plowing through.
It’s been so cold this winter that it just might slightly offset the statistics on the annual rate of global warming – further fuelling the debate on climate change. The tell-tale sign, however, that this season has been well over the top is in the fact that even the most diehard anti-headgear types have been forced to don a winter hat in extreme circumstances – or worse, a full fledged hood! Lord, have mercy!
Chances are, this winter is a one-off so appreciate it in all its freezing glory. One day you can be like those old folks who love to remind us of their trials and tribulations: “Why, I remember the winter of 2010. Now that was the real deal…” The popular saying “that has a snowball’s chance in July,” (or “hell”) refers to the unlikelihood of something happening. With an abundance of massive snow drifts still about, tossing a few snow projectiles around in HELsinki this summer could very well go down. Don’t pack those gloves away just yet.