Notes and observations from a photographer and cultural interpreter living on Canada's east coast.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Silver Thaw or Shelagh's Brush?
It's all in the timing, I suppose. In Newfoundland and Labrador, there's a belief that St. Patrick's Day brings with it a storm, usually one of the last significant storms of the winter. It's a deep-rooted tradition within the Irish-descended population in particular. The occurrence of a storm within a day or two of March 17 was so common that the storm came to be known as "St. Patrick's Storm". A lighter, less snow-laden storm occurring soon after the St. Patrick's storm soon became "Shelagh's Brush" -- the identity of Shelagh (or Sheila) has become a bit murky over the years, with some people referring to her as St. Patrick's wife while others think of her as his mother or even his housekeeper. The light snow of Shelagh's Brush was said to be the result of Shelagh taking a birch broom to the corners of the heavens in a spring-cleaning frenzy. Somehow, through the passing years, the two storms have merged in the collective psyche of Newfoundland and Labrador and now, the big storm on or about St. Patrick's Day has taken on the name of the later, less severe storm. This year, whether it belongs
to Shelagh or to the Saint himself, has packed a punch and created havoc with airline schedules. Instead of a few hours of snow, St. John's received several hours of freezing rain that glazed every surface in sight. Streets, sidewalks and parking lots became skating rinks early this morning, and the city echoed with the sound of windshields being scraped clean of their thick coatings of ice. The streets are clear now, and as the temperature rises the glittering burdens of trees and shrubs are clattering to the ground. One of the most common sights around town at this stage is a throng of intrepid
photographers bundled against the cold and rain, capturing the effects of the storm before they melt away. Whether it's the work of St. Patrick or Shelagh, whoever she might be, or just a "silver thaw" provided by Mother Nature, it's certainly beautiful in its own way; and in a place where the weather is often the first topic of conversation, it's certainly given everyone something to talk about!