The morning dawns at zero degrees and slowly warms to a relatively balmy 2 degrees. After days and weeks of an average minus 20 degrees celsius real feel temperature, the air outside feels pleasant initially. The piles of snow laid only days ago sparkle and shine as they slowly transform into cold water. The snow drifts we traversed now slump wearily into oblivion. Water drips from every building and tree to join the streams and rivers that flow along the streets. Today is the first day in weeks where the paths are mostly clear enough to bring a stroller. Otherwise we would be staying indoors. Carrying a heavy toddler while walking on melting surfaces is not a smart idea. It can only end painfully.
Today we swap our snow boots for wellies. Our winter pants are exchanged for rain pants even though there is no rain falling. We’ve barely gone three metres from the apartment before we hit the first dip in the pavement. A large pool of icy water waits. We wade through this. Then fall into a pattern of fast movement over heavily gritted concrete followed by edging slowly over sheets of ice and through deep dark waters.
On the main street the rivulets of water have joined into one big flood that threatens to engulf the road completely. Months of accumulated snow and ice is suddenly being released all in one go. At each crossing we inch through flood waters that have gathered in all the potholes and dips – of which there are many. The stroller constantly gets stuck on hunks of melting ice and I turn to drag it awkwardly out of the path of traffic, hoping each time that we won’t submerge in a hole and send the dirty floods into the toddler’s lap.
Water is everywhere. The constant dripping as it melts. The swoosh as cars churn past. The feel of it swirling against my boots, looking for a way in. The air hangs heavy, cool and humid. Unable to absorb a single drop more. The clammy feel is strange after months of intense dry cold winds that blasted the skin on my hands and face into the consistency of sandpaper.
By the time we return back home the stroller will be cleaner. All the dirty snow-stains and heavy grit will have been washed away in the puddles. Despite this we will feel chilly and grimy. Our lungs still adjusting to the heavy wet air. The downside of all that pretty fluffy snow that falls over the winter months is this dirty partial rinsing. Tomorrow will be a different story as the half-melted snow and water turns back to ice.