It’s deepest, darkest winter. Technically it’s not the darkest winter; that went by a month ago and I am starting to notice the longer days and I'm grateful for that. But it’s deepest, darkest winter in that there are months of it behind us and months ahead. This past week we’ve been in a big freeze. And while winter walks usually feel good with cheeks glowing healthy pink and the hearty inhalation of great gobs of oxygen, recent blustery days have made it really unpleasant to be out.
I’m actively not complaining about the cold. In other parts of this province and most of my country it’s much colder than it is here. My Australian friends are enduring the worst heat wave they’ve ever had. In a cold snap you can make yourself more comfortable; in a heat wave there are only so many clothes you can take off. Cold is invigorating; heat is energy sapping.
In winter I miss the light more than anything. These days the subtle progress of daylight’s lingering over the street feels like a blessing; I want to reach out and grab it but the million colours of twilight elude me as exit the work day, moving westward ahead as I walk toward home. I miss the explosion of colours in the other seasons; winter's twilight is a jewel on the mostly monotone landscape.
The light has gone when I get home. I turn on the stove light, all my life a symbol of comfort. A symbol of the best thing about deepest, darkest winter – how good it feels to get home.
Happy New Year. Yeah, I know, it’s closer to February than it is to the new year swing over, but the break was intentional. Sort of. After the year of daily posting “rules,” which I didn’t stay true to in the end, I did what I have done upon being released from “rules” in the past –I revelled in the no more rules. The photo-a-day project was a good thing; don’t go thinking I’m regretting it. The exercise made me keep my eyes open, and I documented a year, and even if I didn’t manage the one-a-day in the end, I took lots and lots of photographs, a few of them decent. I’m just a natural rebeller against rules so I'd say I did pretty good. (Even better if I got the rest of December's photos back-posted!) Anyway, now that I’ve got those things expelled from my system I’m back. Here’s where I’m at.
At the beginning of the year, everyone is thinking about fresh starts and resolutions. As a big fan of fresh starts, it is the same for me too. If I were to state some resolutions, which I’m not going to do because I didn’t make any, but if I did, they would revolve around writing and creativity and personal authenticity and cooking and getting more sleep. And revitalizing this blog.
Over the extended bloggerly break I’ve been working out ideas about where I’d like to go with this space now that the photograph project is over. I still don’t have that clearly defined in my mind, but I do know that my intent is to put the focus back on finding inspiration and making pictures with words. What those pictures will look like, I have no idea; I’m just soldiering on.
I really loved writing people watching stories, but just I don’t have as many these days because I’m not trapped in subway cars with them for two hours or more a day any more. And this makes me very happy. I’ve always enjoyed the people-watching aspect of public transit, but doing it every day for several years took a piece out of me. For all the wonderful things a big city is, it is also filled with millions of people who aren’t looking beyond the ends of their noses in getting about their days and to an over-sensitive sod like me, the daily sea of rudeness was demoralizing. So I’m refocusing on the process of finding and developing inspiration in other ways, and my lovely, solitary walks to and from the office each day are the perfect times to meditate on that. That and, er, perhaps, some loving kindness toward the city full of rude people I’m still so quick to judge.
I will continue to use photos to enhance my blog space, but now I’m thinking about playing with photos creatively, and finally learning how to use my PhotoShop software to its full extent, and connecting them to the things I write. I’ve got a brand new phone and now a number of new camera apps to try too.
It’s January, my annual nesting period; and I’m obsessed with food. Every day I’m searching for new recipes, looking at my cookbooks and food blogs and the good thing is that I’ve tried, with success, a number of new favourites to put on the table. This past weekend’s kitchen adventures included tomato-onion-red pepper frittata (eaten over two breakfasts), chicken enchilada soup, vegetable barley soup, crispy quinoa bake, balsamic roasted carrots, roasted tomatoes with parmesan and Ceri’s broccoli salad. I didn’t have homemade lunches a number of times in recent weeks and the thought of the restaurant/takeout options near work, though abundant in choice, grew increasingly unfavourable. I thought of taking up a challenge, say, to try a new recipe every week, but there’re those rules again.
My little family and I are in a really good place together. Ceri and I have moved ourselves into a comfortable, though never fixed routine. We continue our quest to find something to do every weekend, and times at home are happy and relaxed and thank goodness he is amenable to one of the only channels I’m keen to watch on TV these days, Turner Classic Movies (through which I obsessively shut out the world time-travelled over my relatively quiet holidays). Both my girls have new homes and happy work and social lives filled with good people. We all meet every Friday night after work at our favourite local for “beer o’clock” and dinner where we decompress from the work week and catch up and laugh a lot. I’m so lucky.
I’ve started a new semester in my online creative non-fiction class and through it I continue to meet some really great people who seek to do what you and I do – tell our stories. Each new learner that comes to a class inspires me in one way or another; I learn so much from them. In return, I try my best to inspire them to tell their stories.
It’s January. My world is small. A good small – a beautiful thing.
Where are you at?
Christmas Day with my family at Jeff and Carol's, and as always they lay on a fabulous spread and make us feel warm and welcome. Some of us are far away, in England, Alberta and USA. But, at one moment, we've got Ontario, Edmonton and Washington all in one room, bringing us as together as we can be. In a moment like this, you can't say one bad thing about technology.
(Obviously, as I'm in the photo, I can't take credit for this "photo of the day" – the credit would go to my daughter Carly for having the sense to capture a moment.)
I don't take a lot of pride in working on Bay Street. I dig the historical address, but I don't work for, or associate myself with the suits that surround me on the sidewalks every day. I despise the big banks that own the area and who happen to be among the richest companies in Canada who hold the citizens of this country under a great big ugly warty thumb.
But like that kid I mentioned yesterday who squints her eyes to create watercolours on the night, I'm a sucker for the big mother Christmas decorations trying to out ostentatious each other in and around the towers. I love the big shiny Christmas down here.
Is that wrong?
When I was a kid we put up our Christmas tree on or around my sister Jane's birthday on the 19th of December. Happy then over the holidays I would sit in the family room with its green shag carpet and turned down lamps and temporary pine smell, and stare at the tree, holding on to it as if holding on to time. I'd squint my eyes and let the colours run together like some watercolour painting on a night sky. I also associate Burl Ives as snowman and the annual Rudoph TV special with that pine scented memory, but mostly it's the lights.
40-something years later I'm living in a large city in which there is no olive green shag carpet in sight, but the lights strung about the place could accommodate their own dedicated landfill. Despite that thought I still catch myself standing in front of them squinting my eyes to make a watercolour painting on the night.
Tonight is our first family Christmas celebration of the season, with Ceri's brother and nephew at their place. It's warm and pleasant visit, and we enjoy pot roast, conversation and guitar playing by both brothers.
On the way, we take the streetcar out to the east side and walk up through the pretty neighbourhood. Pretty neighbourhood with what seems like neighbours trying to out-do each other with giant lighted blow-up plastic Christmas shit all over their lawns.
This morning I'm moving about my place, finishing coffee and packing things up for work, and I'm stopped still by the sun showing itself, suddenly, in a mirror.
"Good morning," the sun says. "What's your hurry?"
"I'm glad to see you too," I say.