Out Our Way: Alberta Clippers and Chinooks - Psalm 57:1


Last updated 1/7/2022 at 7:46am

Out our way, the dreaded season of the "Alberta clippers" is upon us. Now that I am in the high desert, I chuckle when folks complain about it being a mere 9 degrees above zero and maybe ¼ inch snow on the ground. Yet, I miss home - and even the winters that we survived despite the Arctic howlers that came sweeping out of Santa's workshop.

I can remember huddling in the cold and reminding myself that we Montanans pay the price of winter whiteouts, huge snowfalls and below-freezing days and nights, but reap the treasure of Montana spring, summer and fall. And just to make it even less of a trial, God has blessed us with the beloved chinook winds that give us several spring days in January, February and March most years. No wonder folks say calling God is easy because it's a local call.

But, from time to time, the chinook winds are late or don't show, and the Alberta clippers appear to have taken over the world. Dark days and nights, storms, snow and icy blasts dominate our lives. It is no wonder so many rich tourists buy property in the spring and after their first Montana winter, sell out. The so-called "spring flowers" of "for sale" signs that spring up every year in front of the rich greenhorns from out of state is a standing joke over by the Flathead Lake region. 

But after you have settled into the rhythm of a Montana winter and know that the clippers and chinooks are both part of paradise, you start to relax. Yes, we are buried in the snow and the polar bears are starting to consider intruding on grizzly bear country - but we also know that we will soon hear the " drip-drip-drip" as icicles start to melt because a chinook wind is blowing. 

"Now is the winter of our discontent" (Richard III) is a famous line of Shakespeare's - and one few of us have not at sometime felt. Who among us has not been hit with life's Alberta clippers along the way. No one gets through life without winter storms. Just as the Alberta clippers are part and parcel of life on the Hi-Line, so their equivalent in our human experience must be expected. But remember: the chinook is also part of the Hi-Line ... and that after winter when the clippers are no more, the chinook weather that melts the ice and snow for a short time in February becomes permanent as spring, summer and fall follow.  

God speaks His promises to all, and those who listen and open themselves to His love discover that the harshest clipper that may come into our lives will not last eternally. God sends us chinooks in small and often unexpected blessings that challenge the power of the clippers. True, today's chinook is temporary and winter remains ... but, for a moment, we remember that winter is also temporary. A chinook is coming that is permanent.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Brother John


The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way." He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected]


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