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.
the year drags me
kicking and screaming
never ready to stand on cold feet
slush sprayed over me by lurching taxi cabs
I still haven’t found my red gloves
and I don’t want to wear that
serviceable warm coat
I’d rather wear the one with the flattering cut
and the not serviceable boots
the kind that men turn to look at
and well I never much liked being cold and
I’ve slipped on sidewalks
more times than I'd like to remember
winter steals my dignity
though when I was a kid I didn't care about dignity
or the cold
in the fervour of intense play
outside so long
your legs would sting like a thousand pins were pricking them when you came in
but mom would have hot chocolate in the cupboard
the kind made with milk in a pan on the stove
in the stove light and
you got new flannel pyjamas
with that sweet smell that went away after the first wash
but they got softer
and Mr. P. on the corner would put up Christmas lights all over his yard
I never went for such an ostentatious show
when I grew up
but man could my old house get pretty
smelling like pine
all that oak trim aglow
against the frost laced windows and indigo tinted atmosphere in the street
the furnace would kick in
like a benevolent grandpa
when you came in the front door
after chatting with the neighbours
while we shovelled the sidewalks
and the walks of the old people
a job I loved
it made me feel strong and capable – that most satisfying exercise
and full of that proverbial good cheer
I think it's the pink cheeks
under the descending flakes
under the incandescent street lights
later I’d sit by the pretty old windows
admiring the street and generous porches and warm lights coming from the windows behind them
recalling life in the country
when the snowstorms that bound everyone in for a few days
were the best ones
I am always kicking and screaming
going toward winter
I fancy it when I get there
I should be going to bed but I can’t move away from the breeze coming in the balcony door. The season is changing, the air delicious; like that you might love in summer, but cooler, more substantive, lustier.
Tonight, on my walk, that breeze whips around like a playful child. Not so much a wind – it dances rather than rips. Energy and electricity are transported into my body; like droplets from the lake are being hurled up in grand funnels and rained down into my pores.
There are fewer people around the piers now. Another sign of the waning season. Vacations are finishing and families are heading home, focusing on things like school. And the people that remain seem different too – the conversations more lively, bodies seem a little more alert. There is less lolling in the walking – more vigour.
I walk by a group of about six sitting on a bench. Against the lights behind them, they are silhouetted – black figures, interacting in a conversation that wafts in and out of my earshot with the wind. The voices sound maybe Dutch or German. Each one is engaged with the group – I think of da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the shapes of these particular people leaning into or away from each other evokes lively discourse, like that painting.
The silhouetted people are sitting near a docked sailing ship. It must be because this particular ship is sitting north/south rather than east/west that she, unlike the other sailing ships moored along the piers, has ropes clanging a rhythmic, groovy beating against her masts. I think of drumming circles I’ve heard and that this is just as beautiful in its repetitive chant.
When I walk by the same spot on my way back and find the people still on the bench, still engaged in conversation, leaning into and away from one another, and the ropes still beating their clangy pace against the masts, I think that for sure it’s that sound which drew the group to that particular bench in the first place.
The wind whips my hair and my sweater. The air is electric. I’m glad I can’t see the colour of the clouds because I might not have enjoyed the walk as much if I’d known a storm was imminent.
But then, without the benefit of light in the sky you know your other senses. There's no storm – just a raucous, sexy night. A night that seems to be leaving me and my summer dreams down here on earth where we belong.
Tonight I've been watching FoodTV and have been seeing an advertisement for a show called "The Best Thing You Ever Ate" – which seems to be a survey of the top chefs on the channel. It looks fun, but I thought it would be MORE fun and way more interesting to hear it from you.
So, answer here, or answer in a blog post: What's the best thing you ever ate?
For me it could be any number of turkey dinners (any Christmas, Thanksgiving or mid-summer spit roasted "Turkey Bash" turkey dinner); or the steaks that get barbequed for me by certain top relatives; or that "found breakfast" the morning after we were lost in Sortavala, Russia, of sweet tea, fresh early morning bakery bread, apples and a big hunk of smooth, smokey cheese. Or, corn, brought in from the field, husked, and thrown directly into a pot of boiling water and served with warm field tomatoes.
For the sheer "mmmmmmm" factor, there my sister's hamburger. I'm thinking of one particular day when every bite got that audible "mmmmmmm." It was a combination of summer, country, charcoal grilling, vacation, spontaneousness and timeliness that added to the "mmmmmm" factor of that particular meal. I will say, it's got something to do with the parsley. No really!
Number one though has to be the fresh fish summer meal; caught and pan fried in the same day. Perch or white fish on the Manitoulin Island. It's like candy.
I'm sure my sister would give up har hamburger recipe to the response she finds most interesting.
What's the best thing you ever ate?