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.
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.
It's blustery and damp. So far, that's what the winter has been: blustery and damp. Cold and clear is pleasant to walk in; blustery and damp gets down through your bones. Despite that, we walk over to the Distillery District to see the annual Christmas Market, and many folks and their families are braving it too. We sip some mulled wine under a patio heater and then check out the vendors in the booths lining the cobbled "streets."
We retreat back westward and land in C'est What for some cosy and a snack.
Walking home later, we've got homemade soup on our minds. Even the CN Tower looks as if it wants to hide under the covers.
Walking across the pedestrian bridge (over the downtown Union Station rail corridor) I'm taken, as always, with the rain on pavement. I've just arrived home from Sudbury, appreciative of the downtown airport's proximity to my home (ten minutes' walk) and am on my way up to meet my people for beer o'clock at our usual local. It's good to be home.