Posts Tagged: winter

over two days in february

Every year I dislike this more:

Buh bye snowy sidewalks. I'm trading you in for toasty sand. If you're not clean and dry in a week I may not come back.

This year it’s been relentless. I’m tired of your icy sidewalks. I’m tired of it hurting to just walk outside. I’m tired of your grey monotones. I’m tired of cold feet and numb fingers and whipping winds. I’m leaving you Toronto.



big loud “ahhhh-ing” and I don’t even care

stove light

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.


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shopping, not pulling out wallet, dawdling


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Window and detail, Hudson's Bay store, Queen Street, Toronto


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Brass doorway on an office building, Bay Street, Toronto


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Building and sidewalk (and shadowy figures), Bay Street, Toronto


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Glass art, RBC Building, Wellington Street, Toronto


Tonight, after work, I went shopping.  I want some new clothes. THAT is another sign of spring, feeling as if I can't live another minute with the current wardrobe.  Yes, spring is coming, I'm sure of it now. 

I didn't buy anything.  Nada. But I dawdled on the way home, thinking, again, that I can feel spring in the air.  While dawdling, I took some pictures.

winter and food

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Winter came back today, and considering the -10°C temps, what does one do?  Eat!  After Saturday breakfast of scrambled eggs, peameal bacon, toast and fruit, I made a double batch of baked quinoa patties.  

Later we went to Mia's for an outstanding meal of Pad Thai and Gado Gado salad (hers inspired by Bamboo, a locally famous restaurant that once lived on Queen Street West).  I didn't think to take a picture of it (only thought of diving in), so you're just going to have to imagine how good it was. 

first snow

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There are two really great "first snow of the season" experiences.  One is waking up to a layer of the stuff blanketing the world.  The other is looking up into a light at night and seeing it falling all around you.  

After standing under the light, trying to capture a picture and feeling the snow on my face and hair and seeing it dotting my glasses and my phone (camera), I walked home significantly lighter than I felt when I left.  Happy winter.

first snow, sort of

December 27-2011 Snow

It's been raining all day today. I was itching to get out for a walk early, but seeing the hunched people down there on the sidewalk bracing themselves against the weather got me finding things to do around here instead.  Eventually it got to the "go now or don't go" point so I layered on my rain jacket over my coat and went out.  

Me and my umbrella wandered a bit in the Harbourfront, took a few pictures and watched the people skate at the outdoor rink down by the lake and felt I like a wuss for putting the outing off.  I walked some more and then went up to the grocery store and on the way home got a bottle of wine then the rain changed to snow.  Apparently we had some snow when I was in Vancouver all those weeks ago, but I never saw it.  So technically, this is my first snow of the season. 

There are two really great "first snow of the season" experiences.  One is waking up to a layer of the stuff blanketing the world.  The other is looking up into a light at night and seeing it falling all around you.  

After standing under the light, trying to capture a picture and feeling the snow on my face and hair and seeing it dotting my glasses and my phone (camera), I walked home significantly lighter than I felt when I left.  Happy winter.

Snow falling in a streetlight:  Beautiful thing number eighty.  

a treasure to look upon it

I haven’t been writing much.  If you’re one of my regular friends I’m sure you’ve noticed.  Lists of beautiful things and posts of YouTube clips are not writing.  I’ve learned to accept the dry periods and assume the “writerly collector” in me is needing this time to just collect experience.  But it’s been bothering me – posting other people’s work and videos of other people are not going to bring you back, and I can’t stand the thought of losing any one of you.

Part of it is that I’ve been immersing myself in good books over my daily commute – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  In fact my excuse for staying with this job which is an hour’s trip from my home has always been that those two hours of travel time every day are reading time.  But the problem with immersing myself in books during this time is that I’m not paying attention to my favourite subject: that little space of world around me and the people in it.

By the end of winter I start feeling trapped by it – the darkness, the extended periods of painful temperatures, the ugliness.  Let’s face it – snow in the city is only beautiful when it first falls.  Then it becomes dirty mounds on sidewalks and on edges of parking lots and lining curbs everywhere.  I’m all about the changing seasons, I feel lucky that I live in such a climate – but by late January, I’m finished with this damned season. 

I’m sure it’s all related to a lack of sunlight.  In fact I know it – after an hour’s lunchtime walk in bright sunlight today I felt heady, almost drunk.  And the move to Daylight Time this past weekend has flipped some internal switch – I get to evening and find daylight and I’m noticeably happy.  Lots of my friends are still complaining about that lost hour of sleep – I’m practically giddy for it; I’d gladly sacrifice two hours to have Daylight Time back again.

I wish I was one to write myself through a down or difficult period.  The last few months of hunkering against the weather, coming out of the subway after work into the dark, the sequestering away from humanity and losing myself in other peoples’ stories – have all caused me to close off, and thus close off that well of stories. 

During today's lunchtime walk I stopped and looked ahead at a length of sidewalk on which there was no snow, no ice, no slush, no puddles; just a clear sidewalk under a sunny sky.  And when I stood there looking at it, I felt a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in more than a month, a welcome desire to get back outside of myself.

That sidewalk, with the feeling of freedom the sight of it gave me, is beautiful thing number 24. 

As I walked on, one of my favourite song verses ran through my head:

You say you'll give me a highway with no-one on it
Treasure, just to look upon it
All the riches in the night

U2, from Rattle and Hum, 1988

Let’s call that little simple little verse, with its image so humble and idea so rich, beautiful thing 25, and my theme for escaping the bonds of winter.

I'm finding beauty – are you?

beauty in and around the trains and cattle

Walking to Union Station in mornings is infinitely more pleasant than stuffing myself into a streetcar up close and personal with a hundred or so smart dressed Harbourfront condo dwellers, even if it is a short ride and it deposits you right underground adjacent to the subway stairs.  When walking, I come in through Union Station proper, which is as pleasant and romantic as walking through any major train station, with its great vaulted ceilings and clerestory windows and travellers scattered about sitting in seats looking at tickets and schedules. 

Union Station Ticket Lobby2 
Beautiful thing number nine, encountered most mornings.

I love to be where travellers are; I love to see people out of their element and imagine where their journeys are taking them.  Similarly, I watch planes jetting off from the island airport across from my place and wish I was going on some adventure.  Train stations are more romantic – there is something so inherently peaceful about a train journey.  Oh sure, the average traveller on a jaunt from Toronto to Montreal isn’t going to gaze upon serene landscapes and sip fine coffee in a dining car; but the history that lives in a train station has a way of romanticizing the journey.

Union Station Timetable2 
Then I have to go downstairs to walk through the narrow entrance to the subway.

If I’ve not timed my walk, I may arrive at the same time as one of the GO (commuter) Trains and I’m instantly enveloped by thousands of people.  To this naturally fast walker, it’s torture.  Sometimes I wonder if there are natural fast walkers amongst herds of cattle who are similarly tortured. 

Today, amidst the cattle throngs there is a woman about my age who, unlike the rest of us shrouded in thick dark layers against yet another -20C morning, seems to be dressed for another season.  She’s wearing light athletic pants, white runners and light looking pink jacket.  And a sun hat.  A gardening hat with flaps of cotton that come down the sides to protect one from the sun.  It’s a bright, sunny day and I expect she’s wanting (or needing) to protect herself from the rays no matter what the temperatures are.  Against the backdrop of the rest of us cattle commuters, she looks as if she was plucked out of her garden in May and plopped onto a Toronto subway train in February.

She’s sitting with another woman; they’re both at the edges of their seats.  The look on her face can best be described as enthusiastic; she comments on the advertising signs in the car, and finds something interesting at every station.   Her friend gets off at one of the stops, she sits – either looking around with a pleased looking half grin, or hopping up to look more closely at the route map above the door.  When I get off at Sheppard, she’s got her eyes closed as if having a quick little happy meditation. 

The woman, plucked out of springtime, cheerful and bright amidst the cattle, is beautiful thing number ten.

I'm finding beauty – are you?

a new challenge: explore beauty

I have been taken with the concept of beauty for a long time.  Not idealized, contrived beauty – but the kind of beauty that has layers of meaning contained within it, and that meaning a different thing for each person that experiences it. 

If beauty can be described as some kind of quality in a thing, place, idea or person that causes an experience of pleasure, satisfaction or even transcendence for its beholder, is beauty then something representing a fulfilment – partial or all – of some sort of need in us? 

I have been transformed by beauty a number of times in my life, and because of that I feel, without a trace of doubt, that beauty is related to the spiritual nature of us – to the magic in our existence.  I wrote about that once or twice last year during the time I was taking part in a 30 Days of Beauty challenge put out there by Erin at her (very beautiful) Bluebirdbaby blog.  Hers was a photography challenge, but I adapted it to fit into my own way of expressing and mostly wrote about finding beauty in those 30 days.  It turned out to be one of the most prolific and popular periods of my online writing experience.  And it did what it was intended to do – lift me above the mire of winter. 

So what is it you find beautiful?  Based on what I know of most of my faithful friends here in blogland, it’s not going to be that pretty pop star whose photo was manipulated to “perfection” for the cover of Rolling Stone.  I could look at Bob Dylan’s face and find mountains more beauty than I can in hers.  But that’s me.  My definition of beauty is formed by where I came from, my ideals, my age, my interests, my education – and my needs.  What about you?  What defines beauty in your world?

I find old train tracks beautiful.  And forgotten corners of cottage yards.  And broken down old sheds.  And my mother’s hands.  The way a little kid darts around his father repeating “Da-a-d…?” as they walk toward the Air Canada Center to the hockey game.  Or the stunning gradation of the sky as it was the other night – from breathtaking orange to the deep royal blue housing that delicate sliver of a crescent moon.  Or Santana’s rendering of Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock.  The soft traces of humming I hear coming from the woman with the beatific smile who sits on the other side of my office cubicle.  The bowl on my table filled with sweet potatoes, beets, Bosc pears, an acorn squash and some bulbs of garlic – a haul from the market last week.  Giant ropes coiled on the decks of ships.

So here I am in February again. I could do with a dose of creative healing and I if last year’s exploration was any indication, another beauty challenge is what my psyche needs.  Kind of like my body and soul needing that big steaming bowl of Phở at lunchtime yesterday.  Hell, just writing these past two paragraphs made me feel good.  Since Erin decided not to issue the challenge again this year (going with another wonderful idea instead), I’m doing an explore beauty challenge of my own, and I’d love it if you joined me.

You may not be mired in any deep dark winter.  Maybe you’re in summer, or whatever season it is it’s your happiest time of year and beauty is falling all over you at every step.  I’m inviting you to do it anyway.  Maybe you’re not a blogger.  Who cares?  I dare you to write 1-101 on a piece of paper and take it with you wherever you go. 

The challenge is simply this:

Find 101 examples of beauty, and show, tell, list or write them.  Photographs, poems, paintings, crafts – however it is you tell your story. 

I’m dispensing with the timeframe because the number target may seem high.  Do it once a week and it could become an ongoing topic for a year.  Find a few things a day, the project could last a month.  Sit down for a few hours and you could finish a list in one go!  Maybe you’re not ready just now.  Or maybe you are stumbling across this challenge six months from now.  Any time is a good time to start. 

I’m creating a badge and a dedicated page for the challenge (stay tuned).  You can grab the badge and put in your sidebar if you like, as a reminder of where to find inspiration in an uninspired or down period.  And that, really, is the point.  Where the doldrums take over – finding beauty brings inspiration back. 

Why 101?  I just like odd numbers better than even ones.  It’s only a number and who knows, maybe the term “101” will just be a symbolic sort of thing, representing “my collection” or “my exploration.”  I just know that for me, it’s a topic I need to return to time and time again, and I’m hoping it will turn into something of an extended exploration here.  After all – it’s really beauty that I’m searching for in Realia every day.  I'd venture to say it's what we're all looking for. 

dinner and stars

Tonight I had dinner with Kels.  There was chicken, simmered slow with mushrooms and barley, which we had with roasted beets and steamed asparagus and wine.  And talking, mostly.  Before dinner I put on the movie No Direction Home and we listened to it and glanced at it and chatted about it in between conversation about real life. 

These videos aren't from the movie, but the movie got us talking about these songs, and the writer…