Hoarfrost - Cochrane, AB

I went to visit a fellow that I worked with at YMCA Camp Chief Hector over 50 years ago.  We have crossed paths a few times since then, but I recently discovered that he lives relatively close to Cochrane, out in the beautiful foothills west of here about 45 minutes away via backcountry roads.  I really enjoyed our visit.  We covered the past several decades of our lives and also learned what each of us is doing right now.  One thing that made our conversation so comfortable for me is that we both talked and listened, each respecting the other’s need to tell his story.

Driving to his home placed me in the wondrous country north and west of here that takes you from the rolling plains into the boreal forest and higher ground that nestles up to the Rocky Mountains.   It was made even more wondrous by the veil of white that covered everything.  The moisture in the air combined with the north wind’s cold air had left the leafless flora and the evergreen branches with a beautiful coating of ice.  We call it hoarfrost.  I wondered why we call it by this name, so I did a quick scan of the Internet and got my answer.  The name ‘hoar’ comes from an Old English adjective for showing signs of old age and is used in this context in reference to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.  How appropriate that, at that moment, I was one old white-haired guy going to meet another.

From an artistic point of view you can look at scenes of frost either on a microscopic level or a macroscopic level.  I prefer the latter in most cases, although I do like looking close up at frost-art on a window, exploring the crystalline forms.  Have you noticed that, now that we have thermal-insulated windows, you don’t see this window-frost much these days?

My photograph is one of those iconic scenes you can find on the prairies and in the foothills when the frost lays thick upon anything that sticks out of the ground.  What usually comes with scenes like this is a profound quietness, and that was what I experienced that day.

As I was driving home, after our visit, I couldn’t help reflect on our shared conversation.  I believe it is important to honour others’ interest in telling me about what they are doing and thinking – especially what they are thinking.  When someone chooses to tell me something, I’ve learned to not be internally critical of whether or not I think their story is interesting or exciting, and just respect the fact that they want to tell it to me.  I’ve also learned that the stories are more interesting and become more expansive when each person in the conversation parleys back and forth with acknowledgements and questions, both indicative of an honest interest in the other.  That’s what I experienced that morning in the country.  What fun.

December 10, 2012