Geographically speaking, Edmonton can be found within the following coordinates: 53 degrees North and 113 degrees West off the Equator. So, to speak of Edmonton is to point to a specific spot on a map and say, “there it is!” It’s an exact location with weather patterns, streets, and people. Often, those three elements collide into an inextricable relationship of tension and compromise.
Drive anywhere in the city after a heavy snowfall and you’ll immediately notice how all of these three things become a defining feature of this city. But perhaps what truly defines Edmonton is the collective understanding that we’re in this together. One artist I know depicted a group of people waiting for the bus on a cold wintery morning. Their faces display resigned misery. It’s the sort of misery you only know when freezing cold air slowly invades exposed skin and drains whatever optimism you had that morning. The title of the painting is, “We All Breathe the Same Air”.
The truth is; no matter our ethnicity, religion, politics or socioeconomic background; we are all enduring and resisting the indefatigable forces of the tundra. We manage to do this every year by acting as if the weather doesn’t bother us. Why else would we do an event called, “Whyte On Ice”? People pay money to see ice sculptures in the middle of winter? Does this not sound like a city defiantly mocking the weather gods?
Soon Edmonton will be home to a competition called, “Red Bull Crashed Ice”. The website describes this event as “a unique blend of hockey, power skating and boarder cross that brings together the toughest and fastest skaters in the world on a frozen track”. That’s right; individuals will travel on ice at high speeds in a showmanship of strength and courage. If you ask me, Edmontonians do that every morning for 6 months of the year when they head to work. The only difference is we don’t wear helmets.