It's a time of weather extremes, with heatwave conditions in Sydney and flash flooding from summer storms in Melbourne. However one of the readers of this Tiny Letter is experiencing quite a different extreme, near the Arctic Circle in Canada's far north.
Justin - a Jesuit studying in Ottawa - is filling in for the local priest in Déline (pronounced 'day-li-neh'), an autonomous Dene First Nations community in the Northwest Territory (pictured). Thursday's lunchtime temperature was minus 27 degrees Celsius.
I was interested to read the Wikipedia article on Déline, which included an account of an unfortunate mishap that occurred in March this year. A heating fuel tanker fell part way through the ice road just a few days after the government had increased the road's maximum weight limit. It occurred close to the communities' fresh water intake, in a major fishing area. Fortunately the fuel was able to be removed quickly.
I've noticed that particular accidents and tragedies often become a rallying point - and source of legend - for individual communities, especially those that are remote or living in adverse weather conditions, and thrive on telling stories. Four years ago I visited Winnipeg at this time of the year, inspired by the hauntingly poetic 2007 film 'My Winnipeg' that I'd seen at the Sydney Film Festival.
It was about the film maker Guy Maddin's love hate relationship with his home town, which is the world's coldest 'big city' (defined as 500,000+). I remember the film's account of a racetrack fire. I think it was 1927. As depicted in the still here, the horses panicked and ran into the Red River, which was beginning to freeze for the winter. They got stuck and the set of frozen horse heads remained all winter, becoming a gathering point for the community and, according to Maddin, the subject of ghostly reappearance every winter since.
When you visit a place that has come to your attention through its representation in art or literature, you don't go expecting to see exactly what you viewed or read. I didn't see the frozen horse ghosts, but I did get to see a city living day to day in what I regard as adverse weather conditions but are the norm for them. I went there to Winnipeg to experience the cold as a novelty, as travellers go to sample what is 'other'. I recall that the temperature ranged from about minus 12 to minus 20 (a few days earlier it had got down to something like minus 30).
I remember enjoying the company of a fellow traveller, Kathy from Toronto. I'd met her on the luxury train that I'd boarded in Toronto on the evening of Christmas Day. We trudged through the snow in the streets slightly away from the CBD, appreciating the street art and the fine old public buildings including a huge historic railway station repurposed as a First Nations cultural centre. I then recall being bound for Vancouver and seeing in the spectacular glass walled departure lounge of the airport a local dressed in shorts and tshirt obviously heading for a climate with weather closer to the norm for me in Australia.