Some of my fellow urban sketchers have chided me for being a sissy because I won’t go out sketching this time of year. “Cold…I remember the time when the water froze on my palette and we were still….” Well, you get the picture. After I heard that enough times I actually put my palette out on my porch with a wash mixed up on it. It took all of two minutes for ice crystals to start forming and within ten minutes it was frozen nearly solid. I brought it back in for fear the cold would damage the paints. I was right; they were wrong. It’s just too darn cold to paint in Quebec in February.
But yesterday, it “warmed up”, a term I put in quotes because only someone who live here would think of the word “warm” and yesterday’s temperatures together. And it was Carnaval du Quebec; the time of year where god awful horn sounds are blown to the tribute of the many people selling these sinister souvenirs (remember the soccer horn sounds that made news?). It’s a time of snow sculpture competitions and spreading maple syrup on snow, rolling it onto a stick. It’s a time for crazy guys to race in large canoes across a partially frozen St. Lawrence Seaway and for people to brave the cold by drinking Screech (a horrible concoction similar to backwoods corn whiskey) to keep warm. And, of course, it’s a time when parents wear themselves out hauling their kids up the hill for another ride down …just once more dad.
And even I got up from my hibernation and went outdoors. I was “warm”, all the way up to 6F for goodness sake. And it wasn’t too windy. I bundled up with the required 20 lbs of clothing and pointed my walking shoes towards the old city. I spent the next couple hours walking fast enough that I didn’t get cold. It was a good day to be me. Did I mention how warm it was?
Anyways, I came across this busker, who demonstrates the resilence of Quebecers when it comes to cold. It far exceeds my own. I’m an Arizona boy, after all. Bundled up and wearing big heavy boots, this busker stood outside the information center in the old city (a walled city officially founded in 1608 and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). As anyone attempting to play a saxophone in these temperatures would freeze their fingers in minutes and possibly permanently attach them to their metal saxophone, he had an interesting solution… don’tcha think?
And no, I didn’t sketch him. It was too cold.