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Contrasts - Dreams of Saskatchewan

     It was a nice dream, a pot pourri of a dozen summers past. The beach at Candle Lake, the sand conforming to my back - cool and damp, was a contrast to the noon sun beating down on my reclining body. It must have been a hundred degrees in the shade, but the heat from the sun was oh so soothing. Any minute now the next puff of warm, dry air would caress my face.
     Everything was as it should be. The clean, light fragrance of the lake and the pine trees somehow shouldering their way past the smell of the old canvas tent, the corner of which served as my pillow. And the sounds - the swish, swish, swish of the waves somehow harmonising with the buzzing of the saw flies. The serenity was punctuated only by the occasional cry of birds soaring far above.
     Barry and Richard were there too; so were some other friends whom I couldn't make out through the dream webs. We all just lay there in the soothing sun. It had been a hell of a party and this was just the way to spend a Saturday morning-after. Isn't it funny how the sun revitalises while seeming to drain the energy right out ones body?
     As I lay there in total peace, the incongruous ring of a distant telephone somehow seemed to intrude into the scene. I listened intently, wondering where it was coming from. Then... pop! The dream was gone. I struggled to file it away in my conscious memory, as I reached for the telephone.
     "Hello, Maurice; you up yet?" It was Bill.
     "Umm", I replied.
     "Well, don't forget to pick me up on your way over to Bob's. And you better go out and start the car; it's colder'n a witch's tit out there." Bill always said things like that.
     I slid back under the covers and tried to retrieve the dream. Maybe if I could get my body into precisely the same position I had been in before I awoke...but it was gone. The drone of the furnace replaced the sound of the beach and the steady current of warm air coming down from the ceiling vent replaced the warm breezes from the summer sun. Then, with a click, the furnace shut off and ever so gradually the early morning sounds from outside began to fill my head.
     First there was the sound of a lone car slowly passing the house. I could hear the snow crunching under its tires as only it can on a really cold day. Then, when the whoo-whoo-toot-whoooooooooo of a train seemed to come from just down the block, I knew Bill had been right about the temperature. The only time I could hear that train, which was clear across town, was when the air outside was dead calm and at least forty below.
     The view out the living room window was ethereal. It was so calm that ice crystals hung in the air, creating a fog through which the early morning sun struggled to penetrate. I looked at the thermometer outside the living room window, fifty two below. Better start the car.
     I slipped on my boots and opened the door. Moving through the absolute stillness, caused the ice crystals hanging in the air to eddy about me. New ice crystals rose from the exposed skin of my hands like steam. It's amazing how one can go outdoors on a morning like this without a parka and not feel the cold...at least for a short while.
     Getting into the car was a different story. The metal handle seared my hand with cold. Usually resilient, the upholstery was frozen stiff. As I settled in, nothing budged; it was as if the car were carved from a block of ice. The cold of the seat back penetrated my shirt seemingly burning my skin. I turned the key.
     Click, arruungh, click, click, click...nothing. “Arruungh” is the worst sound a car can make on a cold morning; it should be in the dictionary. I looked over at the extension cord laying on the ground and issued a silent curse on every prank-playing kid in the world. In northern Saskatchewan winters, no block heater means no starting. Period. I plugged it in and dashed for the house, the cold now penetrating my body.
     The smell of fresh coffee filled the air. As the warmth of the house began to melt away the layer of cold that enveloped my body my ear lobes began to sting. Damn! In only five minutes outside and I had a touch of frost bite. I made a mental note to wear my toque next time.
     The car would start in an hour or two, providing I jumpered the battery with the one we kept on a charger in the basement for just such eventualities. Meanwhile, I sat with my coffee and a cinnamon bun thoroughly enjoying a transformed view out the living room window.
     The sun had won its battle to burn its way through the fog. The trees and bushes had become delicate sculptures of hoar frost. Each branch glistened in the now bright sun. The usually dreary look of winter was gone, in its place a scene worthy of the finest Disney animation.
     My car didn't exactly spring to life, but it did start. Driving down the road, everything bumped and shuddered the first few blocks, until the square corners of the frozen tires melted away. Bill, Bob and I had a great day ice fishing, Bill claiming that he was the most successful as he, "caught ten pound of ice 'n a cold."...another Bill-ism.
     As I lay in bed later that night, I recalled the beauty of the day, in spite of the cold. Then, from some dark recess, I remembered the dream of the night before and tried without success to conjure up the image. But, before long, I was boating on Emma Lake on a fine fall day admiring the wonderful colours of the leaves, ten hues of red and a hundred variations between orange and yellow. The outboard hummed behind me and the vibrations mounted my arm as the boat sliced its way through a mirror-smooth lake. Now this was a dream to remember.