WINTER – A LOVE STORY (sort of)

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It’s a familiar plot – girl gets winter, girl loves winter, girl wants winter to go away. This year I can’t help but be fascinated by this season, to examine all his strong points before I beg him to leave me alone. (Let me make him a ‘he’ for my analogies Kind Reader.) Oh, I’ll want him back – in a muddled accepting sort of way – but not for months and months, and not seeing a way around his strong personality and in-your-face charm.

 

I have to say it again – I have never, ever, ever seen so much snow in our back garden, which the weather guy backed up saying there is more accumulated snow on the ground this February than EVER recorded. Photo 2018-02-08, 2 25 57 PMIt was a Bing Crosby white Christmas, preceded by a white November, and followed by a whiter still January.  Albertans who can’t not talk about the weather (how else would we warn each other to not drive, to not freeze off our noses, to not slip and fall) can’t stop marveling at all the piles of deeper than ever snow this month.

I share the belief that if you’re going to live with winter for six or more months of the year you have to find some way to embrace it. Skating is my winter passion. It’s the aspect of winter I adore;  the reoccurring memory of my sister and brother teaching me “one, two, three, glide”, the shiny reflective ice on a late afternoon, the sound of my blades swish, swish, swishing, the marvel of my granddaughters learning now, and along with their mom, becoming my new on-the-ice companions.  Photo 2018-01-19, 1 28 15 AMBut even to skate this year I’ve had to work out kinks with my relationship with winter.  There’s just been so much damn snow! We’ve all had to labour just to leave the house, and to clear the walks, and to stay upright (there’s been record numbers of bone breaking falls in the city), hec it has even gotten tricky to maneuver the bumpy residential roads that are packed higher than the sidewalks with all this accumulated snow.

Now all that said – here’s where my fascination comes in – it’s with the wonder of winter – how it’s larger than life this year. I stare out at in from my writing desk, into the back yard, where the snow is heaped up so high on every surface of the garden. Overwhelmed with  the irresistible urge to plow through the deep piles of fluffy whiteness, I invited my five-year-old granddaughter to join me so I might feel less silly, but had to first make pathways for her short snowpant clad legs. We marveled at how it was almost burying the pedestal bird bath, how the berry patch, the flower beds, and the vegetable garden were several feet under all that snow.  We talked about the seeds in the ground that had dropped from flowers in the fall, about how they were way way down below us as we tramped along. “The snow will melt,” she said, “Right Grandma? And that will make the seeds grow to flowers and then the bees will come and make honey. Right?”

Of course, right.

One of the prettiest aspects of this winter time is how when we shut all the lights out at night before bed, the snow glows a peaceful white under the moonlight and into our home from every window. Staring out I think about the flowers and the bees making honey when this is all over, and I can start a new romance with spring…

(Comment and tell me about your love/hate relationship with winter where you live…this one’s something else 🙂

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Whenever I Want You, All I Have To Do Is Dream

– Everly Brothers, 1958

For years I’ve harbored a dream that I recently imagined I was unbelievably close to executing. Not a word had been posted on my facebook (didn’t want to jinx it) until hours before I was to relish the experience.  When I was a little kid, probably about four years old, my mom, busy with five children, had my older brother and sister take me to the local outdoor rink – back in the good old days when kids could take kids someplace fun. Big Sis got my skates on me, tugged me onto the ice, and directing my brother to take my other hand, they coached me, “One, two, three, glide. One, two, three, glide.” It’s all brilliantly sharp in my memory because I loved it. I mean, I really loved it.

Living in a land where winter snow and cold stretches on and on, I made absolutely certain that my own four kids, Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily could skate, so that swishing around a rink with red cheeks and cold toes was a joyful part of the long season. They’ve  left home now, but I’ve continued to lace up and pleasure skate, sometimes with family, sometimes with a good friend, other days just as happily alone, delighting in that push, push, glide across the ice on a crisp winter’s day. And I had a skating dream – the nation’s capital, in Ottawa, Ontario, attempts each winter to maintain the Rideau Canal that runs through the city as ‘the world’s longest skateway’ – how amazing – skating almost eight kilometers through the heart of a metropolitan center.

canal site

It was late in the skating season, but I’d travelled east to assist my sister after she had surgery on her knee, the same sister who had helped teach me to skate. Opting for another traveling ‘first’ I took the train from her home in Toronto, and journeyed four and a half hours north to Ottawa. When I arrived it was cold and dark, but still the weekends possibilities stretched out before me. My husband had flown in to meet me, and sharing a meal in the hotel lounge, where guest’s chatter blended with nostalgic tunes from the piano bar was first on our agenda. I only briefly considered slurping down a bowl of soup, dawning my warm clothes, casting off my sleepiness and hitting my stride with my man – who’d reported seeing hardier skaters gliding over the ice beneath a flurry of new snow.

Waking the next morning so ready to pursue this ice skating dream, I recall feeling sort of jittery. Looking out the window and seeing that snow had turned to rain didn’t squash my anticipation. Even as my husband and I ate our quick breakfast we both imagined that, though it would be less comfortable for us to skate wet, a little water on ‘frozen water’ couldn’t squash our skating trip down the winding canal. We’d been informed that to add to our skating comfort there were warm-up shacks every two kilometers and booths selling hot chocolate and warm Beavertails (squashed cinnamon-y doughnuts).

beavertails

It wasn’t until we walked, skates in hand, to the first entrance to this world’s largest skate way and saw the closed black iron gates and signs warning against going onto the canal did it dawn on us that the canal – open to skating the previous evening was now closed up. Below us the canal looked a sorry state with water puddling over the slushy surface, and piped-in music still playing from somewhere near the empty change shack and closed hot chocolate booth.  A helpful citizen directed us to something grandly called, The Rink of Dreams, a small outdoor rink, kept frozen in some mechanical way. We took a few slushy circles around it as a poor consolation along with a half dozen other disheartened skaters. It just wasn’t the same swoosh, swoosh, swoosh over a long distance of discovery that I’d dreamed of. My good husband stayed cheerful buoying my soggy spirits. “Don’t despair,” he said, buying me a warm Beavertail. The temperature is dropping to nineteen below tomorrow. You’ll get your skate in.”

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Let’s face it, you’d have to be in that situation to be holding your breath and hoping for the temperature to drop to freaking nineteen below – I mean, seriously. We shared a meal with charming friends that night and hey, I know what a lucky woman I was to just be so far from home with my supportive man and good people we care about. Still when we came outside again to icy sidewalks and had to tuck our hands deep into pockets I grinned at the cold night. By now we were well acquainted with the City of Ottawa’s website detailing the conditions of their famous canal.  I even got chatty with a staff member that told me, quite honestly, that it was touch and go at that time of the year, though he added, just the previous season the canal had been open a record long sixty consecutive days.

 

We explored the city in the deep chill, following our friends in out of the cold to browse international art collections in Ottawa’s stunning National Gallery. My husband, still eager for me to do this, encouraged me to stay another day while he went home to work obligations.  I kept my chilly fingers crossed, indulged in another sweet crusty Beavertail, thought about dreams and how we feed them, and with enough hours to skate before my flight the next day checked the city web site again – damn. I’d missed the season, the ice conditions had deteriorated too much to rectify it so late in the year.  My canal skating dream was dashed.  Before hailing my cab I texted my four kids with the big lesson I had learned, “When you have a dream that is weather dependent and you arrive in the place to pursue the dream, you should pursue it immediately.”  Such is life, I came home determined not to pout, and immediately bought a basket of bright spring flowers for the kitchen – blue, pink and yellow primulas.  Winter was ending. It was time to herald spring.

primula 2

 

To read Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – Candace Allan’s book about the crazy and chaotic launching of her four artisticly inclined kids – Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily into the wide, wide world – click here  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

How Winter Tiptoed Up and Slammed Me On the Head

Image I was a victim of seasonal denial. Sometime before Halloween I was saying – “Wow, this is amazing.  It is actually seven o’clock at night and it is still sorta kinda warm out.”  Not only that, I was marvelling at the display of radiant red and orange leaves glorifying the trees.  And being a really slow learner, I left the rake out in a pile of garden debris and wandered away from the task at hand mid-job to enjoy some frivolous distraction.  Then I decided to wait for another equally sunny day to finish the job, refusing to go do it the following chilly afternoon with a forecast of snow.  I believed autumn would go on and on and on. 

So it did snow – a gentle flurry of fluffy flakes, and I watched my neighbours’ set their yards and decks and lawn furniture in order through my livingroom window.  “Silly them, don’t they know there is always snow on the Eve of Halloween and this will pass, the sun will shine and melt all this fluff that they’re making a fuss about.” Image  

Wrong-o Daddy-o.  Yesterday I bought bananas and then realized I now had to venture home instead of making a scheduled stop unless I carried my bananas with me, because otherwise I’d be poking them onto a stick and eating them as a frozen treat as it was seventeen below – the temperature at which bananas and milk and other squishy and liquid materials freeze.  I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and passed by a mound of snow three times the height of my vehicle, plowed into a mini-mountain that cars could park in a hap hazard fashion all around.  The lost yellow parking lines  would be covered with hard packed snow until spring.     Image   

 

Image  It was time for boots and gloves and travelling with survival gear in the car – a tin can and matches and a fat candle. Yes, winter had crept up on me and was clearly knocking me on the head – my rake would be leaning against the fence until the next calendar year and the hose, frozen standing up in the shape it was in when I twisted it from the tap, would stand that way until March. Yep, this is winter.  And we’re deep in it.