winter, the continuing story

winter at the park 2

That combination of snow and rain on Friday night made for some horrible driving. I agree that the trees look really pretty.

I arrived home safely, but then managed to wedge the car into a snowbank, and with all that ice underneath, all the wheels could do was spin. I was so relieved when my partner remembered the old rug in the garage, and between the two of us, we managed to get it free again.

That high wall of snow and ice chunks left by the snowplow Saturday morning across our shared driveway made me want to cry. I almost cried again when our neighbour’s friend drove up with his plow to clear it.

We bundled up and took the dogs to the park yesterday, but it was so cold I wanted to turn around and go home again. But once we were in the shelter of the trees on the sunny side of the lake, it was warm again, and people were smiling, and the snow sparkled in the sun.

More snow is expected today, and more rain tonight. To be continued.

Photo taken on February 27, 2011

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the song of the open sleigh

jingle bells
Jingle Bells is not a Christmas carol, it’s a winter carol. It’s a song of the open air and the scent of fir trees. It follows the rhythm of the harness bells, the steam rising from the horses’ flanks as they pull the heavy sleigh, the tug and creak of the runners as they slide across the snow. It’s a song of friends and family, hot cups of chocolate held in mittened hands.

The most magical sleigh rides are at night. I remember going out with a group in my university days on a long ride across fields and through the woods. It was a clear still night, the temperature hovering around minus 15 celcius, the air so cold it made our eyes tear up. At first, there was lots of chatter, laughter, singing. Then gradually our voices died away, and in the silence we could hear only the steady stamp of the horses’ hoofs, the jingle of the harness, the creak of the sleigh. It was a moonless night, so I felt — rather than saw — the shapes of trees as we passed. I looked up and the sky was filled with stars; they seemed almost close enough to touch. As the sleigh glided through the snowy fields, I watched the sky and felt like I was flying.

I’m glad they still have sleigh rides in the park, pulled by horses instead of machines. There’s no modern equivalent to the old-fashioned pleasure of riding in an open sleigh.

Photo taken on January 16, 2011

wings of spring

wings

Look at how the world has changed
a sea of white surrounds us
but look again, though all seems dead
the seeds of spring remain

Beneath the snow, the earth is sleeping
beneath the ice, the river dreams
beneath the trees the groundhog waits
to herald the coming spring.

Photo taken on January 16, 2011

snow is for sliding

sunny sliders

One thing about Saint John: there is no shortage of hills. So if you were given a sled for Christmas, you would find plenty of slippery slopes around here to try it out.

One of the best sliding hills In the city is in Rockwood Park, just across from the pavilion at Lily Lake. When I was a child, we came here as a family and crowded on the toboggan, all five of us. I was first, my legs jutting up and over the wooden prow. My brothers were behind me, then my mom and finally my dad, his strong legs curled around us with his feet hooked into the front of the toboggan, steering with his arms. I remember the long walk up the hill, the feeling of wet wool, and the swift movement — a blur of trees and children and flying snow — on the way down.

Seeing the faces of these two girls sliding on the hill yesterday reminds me of how much fun it is to play outdoors in the winter. Maybe I’ll head out today to play in the snow before the weather turns to rain.

Photo taken on January 9, 2011

a land of adventure

Harrigan Lake, winter

When I was young, we often went on hikes together as a family. My dad has a collection of topographical maps of this area, scratched with pencil lines marking the trails he has found and followed. Many of these trails are unmarked; following them was always an adventure.

I remember one hike, in winter. We were walking beside a frozen lake, skirting the edge of the woods, and we could not see the path; only the trackless snow lay ahead. I was feeling cold, and I wanted to go home. Then my dad told us a story about Robert Scott’s expeditions to the Antarctic, and the challenges he faced in exploring its permanently frozen landscape.

Somehow, hearing that story made all the difference. As I imagined being in the Antarctic, I began to feel like an explorer, and I started paying more attention to my surroundings. And I decided that, if this was an adventure, I could put up with a little cold and inconvenience.

One of these days I might make it to the Antarctic to see it for myself. In the meantime, I can have one adventure after another, right here.

Photo taken on January 5, 2008

a brave new year

sun beams

Change is in the air. A new year has dawned, we have turned our backs on regret and missed opportunity, and now we step forward into the future. At least, that’s our intention.

The future, of course, is always here in front of us, but sometimes it turns out to be just the past again, recycled and wearing new clothes. We think we are open to new possibility, but we don’t notice how our blinders of habit and prejudice show us only what we expect or want to see.

I have been reading Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks, which I received for Christmas, and I was caught by an observation he makes about change. He describes how as a boy, for no particular reason, he stopped eating eggs, and “as is the way with these things, behaviour became belief, and eventually I came to believe I hated eggs.” Then someone he admired mentioned how much they liked fried eggs, and Stuart discovered he liked them too. He started eating eggs again, just like that. He concludes: “We have the desire to change hardwired into our systems. And maybe our capacity is greater than we think. All it takes is a little courage…”

If we think of change as something small, something simple and everyday like that egg, then it doesn’t seem so difficult. Old habits die hard, but they might just melt away when we are inspired to do something new or different. May we all have that little bit of courage we need as we step into the brave new year.

Photo taken on December 7, 2009

don’t forget to admire the view

Saint John from Mount Pleasant

Yesterday was rainy and dull, and I desperately needed a boost of colour. So we went to the park.

And as so often happens (why do I so easily forget?), our walk turned into an adventure. We had the dogs with us, so the walk was energetic. After walking around the lake, we decided to follow a path that I’d often wondered about, an unsigned path that disappeared into the woods and up a steep bank. After a couple of wrong turns, we ended up at the top of a rocky hill with a fabulous panoramic view over the city. There was the colour I had been seeking, the inspiration and the energizing hike, all rolled into one.

Most of my photos were blurry, but I don’t mind. I found a fresh outlook, and stopped to admire the view, and that was exactly what I needed.

Photo taken on December 2, 2010