Our Family Lines writing.

Weather as a Prompt

It’s cold in Edmonton! How about where you are?

Using Weather as a Prompt

I wrote the following story a few years ago during the late fall when I lived in Calgary. You can use the weather as a writing prompt. Why not? It’s a good chance to hone your description writing skills, too. What does cold feel like to you? Little pins sticking into your skin? What does heat feel like? Like you have flames spurting out of your pores?

Flash Frozen

The cold is finding its home in Calgary. I checked the weather via the internet before I went outside today and it said it was going to be +8 C. It’s getting chilly! But this means I don’t have to wear tights under my trousers to keep my legs from freezing or wear my big coat just yet.

Oh, oh. Someone (me) was wrong.

Instead of being a balmy plus 8, the temperature dipped and went below zero. I was cold, so cold, walking around downtown. I wished I had brought my mittens and tuque as the chill wound its way around my body, creeping into my bones. Snow started to fall and twirled in the air, smashing into my eyes. Although I was close to becoming a Popsicle, I knew I had been much frostier before.

No, it wasn’t when I was living in the Northwest Territories. There had been some severely skin-numbing days there. Once, when I was visiting a culture camp far, far out on the land, the temperature dipped below -60 C. I was reporting on the teachers and Grade 12 students who were taking part in a winter camp. We were on Pilot Lake, pulling up fish caught in a net suspended from two holes chopped in the thick ice. As soon as the fish left the water, they didn’t even have time for one gasp of air. They went frigid. Flash frozen. As hard as trees surrounding us.

Coldest of the Cold

The coldest I’ve ever been, though, was in Puyo, South Korea, in 1999. It wasn’t even that cold outside, only -12 C in November. But it felt like -100 in the small town about a three-hour drive from Seoul.

I was in Korea teaching English at a private school (hogwan) in a rural town. In January, almost two months into the job, the owner decided he didn’t want to run the hogwan anymore. He closed it down, took my office keys and told me I had a week to find a new job, new place to live and get out of Puyo.

Searching for employment and a home in a foreign land and language was hard. But with the help of some Canadians I met once in the city of Daejon, I found another position teaching English. The job didn’t start for two more days though so I had to stay put in my Puyo apartment before my move to the big city about an hour’s bus ride north. So, I got busy packing and taking in the last-minute sights of Puyo.

No Central Heating

January in Korea might hover around -2 to -12 C. The temperatures aren’t usually as frigid as they would be in most of Canada. However, most places in Korea didn’t have central heating. Public schools were closed in the winter because they weren’t set up for heating. In shops and restaurants and cafes, people would gather around one small gas or oil-powered furnace. My hogwan had an oil heater that blasted hot air and filled the small space. My students and I didn’t have to huddle around it. I wasn’t so lucky with my apartment. It was heated by an oil furnace but the large store space I lived over, went unheated. It was expensive to buy fuel to warm two floors. That was why I often went for a walk in the evening to get my blood pumping.

My second-to-last night in Puyo, I went for my walk, I came home to my apartment to find it felt more like a freezer than ever. My home was on ice.

Oh no. There was something wrong with the oil furnace.

Fueling Despair

It had been topped with fuel recently so that wasn’t the problem. No matter how or what I tinkered with on the heating system. there was no getting it fired up. Calling the landlord wasn’t going to work either since he was the boss at the hogwan and not responsible for helping me anymore. He had told me just that.

I spent that night wearing all my winter clothing. I put on two wool pull-overs and over those, a cardigan and then my coat. I could only put on two pairs of socks, otherwise, my winter boots wouldn’t fit. I only had two blankets and they didn’t offer much protection from the elements. I considered boiling water for tea but that would mean having to go to the bathroom at some point and exposure of another sort. I didn’t sleep at all and when morning came, the sun’s weak rays did nothing to send some heat my way.

There was no place where a chilly woman could find a nook of warmth to settle into. I no longer had access to my hogwan and there were no cafes, malls or friends to offer me a warm sanctuary. I had to make my own fire.

Walking About

I walked all day long. From here to there to here again. Up a small mountain and down. Over a bridge and back again. I managed to increase my body core’s temperature a bit, finally feeling my toes burst into flames as my feet thawed.

I was feeling better. Until night came again. I could not shake the cold, it had twisted my insides and caused me to shiver for such a long time that I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t tremble. It was back under the blankets in the same winter clothing as yesterday.

I stuck my hands deep into my pockets to catch any wisp of heat escaping from me.

What was that? Keys? For the school!

I had forgotten about the spare set of keys I had. They had been given to me for emergencies. Emergencies such as no heat.

Making the short walk to the hogwan in the dark, I unlocked the door, locked it behind me and turned on the heater. Full blast. Ahhhh. My bones stopped grinding together and my skin stopped puckering. Eventually, I warmed up enough to take off the multitude of sweaters and socks I had piled on my body. I broiled myself on the heater until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Then I put my layers back on and ran back to my apartment where I slept until I was woken up by the cold again.

That was OK. It was time for me to leave anyway.

What type of weather experience are you going to write about?