A field near Fort Langley shortly before Christmas. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

A field near Fort Langley shortly before Christmas. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Painful Truth: A colourful holiday season

Not just a traditional west coast ‘green Christmas.’

As of the writing of this column, there’s no snow in the forecast for December 24 or 25 this year.

Of course, things could change. The weather on the good old Wet Coast may tend towards temperate and damp, but that doesn’t mean we never have cold snaps, a foot of snow, or a nasty Arctic outflow.

But for now, it’s looking like another rather damp Christmas.

We often call this a green Christmas, but this year, I’ve been observing the outdoors a bit more closely. It’s not exactly green.

Nor is it entirely brown, the other colour associated with the season here in Langley. Brown mud, brown grass, bare brown branches – there is a lot of brown in the seasonal palette, its true, but that’s not the whole story, either.

What’s impressed me this winter is just how much colour remains year-round.

Drive out towards the rural areas of our town, and you’ll see the dark greens of conifers, the lighter greens of the grasses that are still hanging on, especially on the floodplains down by the Fraser, the Salmon River, or the Nicomekl. Then there’s the sharper, vibrant greens of the moss, still growing and immune to cooler temperatures.

Beyond that there are multiple shades of gold.

The brightest golds, of the cottonwood and alder leaves, are long gone now, but tall grasses, dormant for the season, still come in a variety of shades, beiges and oatmeal hues with varying degrees of yellow.

There are reds, too – vines and tree branches the colour of spilled wine or ripe strawberries. These reds don’t tend towards the gaudy or bright, though here and there you can find some holly berries bursting forth as vividly as the paint job on a 1970s muscle car.

Snowberries and fungi provide a sharp contrast here and there – pale as ghosts, or the creamy white of the underside of a toadstool.

The most impressive palette we have in winter, though, remains the sky.

There are people who would tell you that every rainy winter day in coastal B.C. is the same – dreary, grey, dull.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

First of all, unless it’s raining cats and dogs, there’s usually variations in the cloud cover even when it’s actively pelting down rain.

But our weather is always changing, and so is the sky.

When the clouds clear, we get that clear winter light, a paler blue than summer overhead, and long, dark blue shadows that are cast even at noon.

Then the clouds come back – some are gunmetal grey, darkening to charcoal in late afternoon, as the light fades. They can also be lit up in brilliant white, or tinted with blue. There are a hundred shades in a tall cloud, sunlit on one side, shadowed on the other.

A green Christmas? Not exactly. It’s a subdued paintbox, that’s true, but it’s rich and varied and changes by the hour.

Now, if it does snow, we’ll have to talk about all the colours you can find in light and shadows across a blanketed field, and that’s a whole other palette of winter to enjoy.


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