Ice Winter

March 22, 2010

The bells and doorknobs on the tree.

Ah! The first day of spring was on Saturday! Today was the first day since December 18 where we did not have any snow on the ground. Granted, it *has* recently been above freezing (again first time since December), and in the city the streets and sidewalks have been clear for a few weeks now, and even in most places in the suburbs have been free. But muddy piles of it have been tucked away here and there: just behind the brick and wrought iron gate to a side entrance for the Copenhagen School of Life Sciences, in the forest of Dyrehaven (the Animal Park, or Deer Park, a former royal hunting grounds) north of the city. A large iceberg of snow has been perched on the rock shoreline of the Øresund north of the city, a remnant of the Danish “ice winter”. Earlier in the winter the retirees still swam naked in the waters north of town, but as the water temperature continued to drop, even these die-hards gave up.

Our outdoors Christmas tree in early February

An “ice winter” is when the waterways freeze over. On my way back from a business trip in the middle of February,  the Roskilde fjord about an hour from Copenhagen was completely frozen solid and powdered with snow. (Forget any romantic notions of Norwegian fjords here: Denmark’s highest point is about 150 meters, and is nowhere near Roskilde.) The Øresund, the straight between the North Sea and the Baltic that separates Denmark and Sweden (and that was the source of Danish power and tax revenue in the old days), froze over as far out as you could see. The ice probably wasn’t very thick, as it came suddenly over a weekend in February, and disappeared just as quickly a few days later. But the straight did get slushy on several occasions over the winter. The canals and lakes in the center of Copenhagen froze over, and stayed frozen for much longer. The canals were covered in “porridge ice”, large slabs of ice that are jumbled together and not frozen solidly together. The lakes became giant skating rinks, once the authorities declared them safe.

So, it was snowy and cold. At least it wasn’t raining and cold. Seattle, on the other hand, had one of the mildest and sunny winters in years.

This Christmas, Cate went Christmas tree shopping with her friend Johanna, who is Estonian, and her parents Martin & Kati. She brought home an enormous tree, with a 7-inch trunk. It of course didn’t fit our tree stand, and I had to go out to purchase another. Thankfully we have a large balcony, five feet wide and the length of our apartment. I propped it up in a large planter and lashed it to the railings. Cate made a foil-covered star for the top, and Rachelle found some bells with tinsel to hand on the boughs. It ended up looking quite hygge, particularly when it was covered in snow. Sammy would step around it as he found the deepest snow in which to pee—the girls having given up on taking him down to the street during the winter.

Yesterday, in just our shirt sleeves, Eden and I finally carted it down to the courtyard to be hauled away with the trash.

Cate in front of her Christmas tree on the Spring equinox.

p.s. I wrote this on the train this morning. It turns out there is still a short mountain range of snow edging the parking lot at work. I guess we’re not out of winter yet. After all, in 2008, it snowed on Easter.