I visit my mother in Quebec city about once a month. It’s a routine that settled itself in sometime before my father passed away five years ago. The drive takes two and a half hours on a rather monotonous highway between Montreal and Quebec city, with on either side fields, farms and woods and large expanses of sky.
I’ve come to appreciate the many different hues of grays and beiges these mundane sights can take in winter. This Saturday was sunny and clear with fresh snow, so the shades of the day were crisp blue and white, divided in the middle by the black ribbon of the road.
Shortly before arriving, suddenly all the trees and schrubs started to glitter. It took me a few minutes to realize I had crossed an invisible line into an area where everything from fences to electric wires was covered with ice.
There had been freezing rain the day before. Quebec city had been hit harder, and being located further north, the cold weather was preserving the effect of this coating downpour.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t like freezing rain. It stands in between snow and rain, ruining the former, disguising as the latter, it makes driving a nerve racking exercise and you can forget about walking normally unless you plan to spend the next weeks in a cast. It also causes damage to vegetation, and as we all know up here, to electrical wires. A very inconvenient thing.
But it does create astoundingly beautiful landscapes, that nobody asked for but there it is, looking splendid as if everything had been coated in cristal.
And so, as my mother and I sat together that afternoon, looking at some photo albums of long ago, our gaze could not help reverting back to the window, attracted by this magical display of winter light.
It was only fitting to be with her on that day, because she taught my siblings and I to observe and appreciate the many nuances of the natural world, in every circumstance. My mother’s marveling was my initiation to beauty.