Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chill Winter...

A little-known introit to "Winter Wonderland" plays in my head as I look out my children's north-facing window. "It's winter." At long last the ground wears "a mantel of white", and my view is partially obscured by a fractal-pattern of frost on the window pane. Such condensation could be viewed as evidence that the humidifier needs adjusting, but the cracks on my hands tell another story, as do the angry red patches behind two pairs of little knees. For the sake of the children, the humidity is increased rather than reduced, and I choose to see this temporary window treatment as a symptom of something splendid. We're having a couple of self-proclaimed "snow" days - prairie style: staying home from school not because of impassable streets but due to temperatures that would only look high if measured in Kelvin.

After six outings in -30 winds on Monday, the adventure of outdoor excursions had worn a little thin. The first trip out to preschool had me feeling pretty smug - 'frigid weather isn't so bad as long as you dress for it,' said the overly-inflated tough prairie girl in my head. Coming home with my face to that wicked north wind, however, I was singing a different tune.  Or maybe it was more of whimper. I headed out to pick up the princess bearing yet another scarf, hoping to blunt the sting of her own rude winter discovery. It only partially worked, but by taking breaks to walk backward we made it home, slowly but safely. This experience, unfortunately, was topped by our drive out to the dentist that afternoon; wind is never so cruel as in a strip-mall parking lot where nary an edifice is tall enough to tame its fury. I'd take an residential hike out in the elements to the sprint from vehicle to store and back in an asphalt desert any day. Between the temperature dipping yet another ten degrees and my husband no longer able to stay home with our toddler, a day or two in great indoors sounded like a good idea, much as I'm loath to expand the reasons one can stay home from school.

Yesterday, I loved it. The white landscape outside my kitchen window brought out the brilliance of colours inside. The pink marbling of our potassium-laced rock salt gleamed from the creamy mouth of our salt pig like so much quartz. The warm orange of the beginnings of yet another batch of pumpkin muffins smiled out of a stainless-steel bowl, oversized to accommodate the overly-vigourous mixing of a 4-year-old helper. The compost heap had vanished under a white peak, chasing away a certain charcoal coloured cat that used our rubbish as bate for seekers of seeds; apparently the potential of wild game has lost its allure for that domesticated feline. Between making muffins and turkey pot pie, the oven kept us warm well into the evening. Why would one need to leave home?

By the tail-end of breakfast this morning, however, my daughter and I had reminded each other of the many benefits of going to preschool. Cabin fever appears to both increase her inquisitiveness and lower my tolerance for being endlessly mined for information. Thankfully she opted to go and play downstairs with her brother before things completely unraveled and left her frazzled mommy to finish her coffee and blog in blessed silence. Leaving the house tomorrow will do us good. Until then, I'll do my best to focus on the paradox of a bright warm sun making it colder outside.

I did, nevertheless, make one discovery worth sharing: if you're ever in need of conversational fodder with a musically-minded youngster, play Feist's "The Reminder" and try to identify each instrument as your hear it and explain how it's played. There are a lot of them. You will talk the whole way through the album. Just don't make my mistake of turning it on before drinking the requisite amount of coffee.

Stay warm, friends.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Those proverbial intentions

I've never been much for New Year's resolutions. Honestly, I've been of the opinion that January 1st is a rather silly time to start anew for longer than I care to speculate. In this part of the world, namely the narrow latitudinal range in which I've always resided, the beginning of January is dead in the middle of the longest and most dreary of seasons. With spring nowhere in sight and straddling the school year, I usually feel more like I'm mid-marathon than starting afresh.

So I've usually decided to leave the creation of resolutions to a time of year than actually makes sense to me as a beginning. Say, perhaps March (think about it: it's spring, we've just ended the one month that ran out of days, and those -ember months? They run from seven to ten, not nine to twelve. I know. I'm brilliant) or September (church new year, switching summer fun for fall school days amid a blaze of inspiring colours; sounds like a fresh start to me).

The one problem with this noble intention of mine to postpone resolutions is that it remains just that: an intention. And we all know where that road so paved leads. And honestly, now that the dust has settled from the fun and frazzle of Christmas and my daughter's return to preschool is dragging me out of bed at a decent hour once more, the year feels, if not exactly new, it's at least back to normal. And as the sun's return drags offensively slowly, considering how quickly it seemed to retreat, a little more direction may help me find a second wind.

What's more, I do have nascent list of goals, pursuits - intentions, even: a junk drawer in mind where all files begin with "after Christmas". And here we are: after Christmas, and my usually snubbed "new" year (not that I refuse to meet with friends, give "happy new year" hugs or drink champagne), and Theophany (i.e. Epiphany), and the end of school holidays. High time to get started on something. Perhaps a series of posts stating said intentions.

I'm hoping by posting my intents so publicly I'll feel more inclined to pursue them, though I must confess that there's a little more behind my motive. Those pickled posts I promised back in December have been pushed so far back in my mental pantry that I'm having difficulty retrieving them. Some of those preserved ideas may worm their way back to the surface, but in the mean time, it would be good to have some fresh fodder for future blog posts. And I'd better stop extending that metaphor before I strain something.

Stay tuned...

And have a happy new year.


Saturday, 7 January 2012

Falling for fool's spring

It was afternoon more akin to late March than early January. Chinook-shocked snow shrunk back to reveal grass so green my eyes involuntarily scanned bare branches in search of impossible buds. It wasn't the first time this unusually mild winter had fooled my senses with false hints of spring. It was, however, the first time I decided to play along.

I opened all the windows above grade, and even one in the basement. Instead of reaching for ready-made snacks from the pantry, I prepared a fresh and simple tomato-mint salad and served it up with a dollop of ricotta cheese (Miss Particular opted for kidney beans on the side, and Mr. Copy-cat had it all, but that was to be expected). At 4:11pm, I checked the weather: 10 degrees Celcius, with the sun due to set at 4:28. With the window for a walk already waning, we pulled on mitts and sweaters and headed out the door.

We promenaded through the puddles as the cloud blushed pink. The route was familiar, the circumstances were not. I had been toying with the idea of making a trial run to preschool during the holidays to see if my ever-growing boy was up for taking the trip on his own two feet. That day, he proved himself more than up to the task; the walk took only five minutes more than usual, and he showed far more interest in keeping up with his sister and splashing in puddles than in wandering into front yards, or, as my odd helicopter worry supposed, dashing into traffic. His delight in the freedom was infectious, and the slightly slower pace left me time to take in details my eyes had skipped over before. I discovered an embossed flower decall gracing the white metal mailbox of my happy house and was charmed all over again.

The breeze turned brisk as dusk fell, and we all came home with rosy cheeks and runny noses. Once the boots were off, I set about closing windows against the chill before lighting candles against the darkness. We were wise in the ways of winter once more, but the dream was nice while it lasted.