I took a photo of this anomaly in late December in what felt like the depths of winter. It had already been cold and snowy enough to warrant this term. As you can see, though there is some melting, you can more or less hear the snow and ice crunching under my boots.
I’m not used to seeing such a vivid splash of colour so deep into the season, unless it is a Christmas decoration. But this was actually attached to a stem which was coming out of the ground. It hadn’t been dropped in the middle of nowhere, and believe me our walk is verging on the middle of nowhere. Apparently after some research and questioning around I discovered it is some type of bittersweet.
Now, in the depths of January with the monochromatic whites and greys this discovery has come back to me as a small sign that warmer, more colourful days are ahead. This I know, and I hope however, they do not come too soon, as those kind of early warm days are wreaking havoc on the planet. But the splash of colour touches something hopeful nevertheless.
This time of year has always been a trial for me––a bit of an endurance test. As a very lucky kid, weekends were filled with skiing and skating, but the weekdays were filled with the abhorrent six letter word, school, and staring out the window at the flat plains of snow, wondering whether to walk or bus it home. I was extremely lucky too, in that my dad took us on some unbelievably amazing tropical Christmas vacations. However this made the readjustment to the sterile Ottawa winter that much more painful. Much of my window staring time was accompanied by a tight throat and blinked back tears. Poor me(!)
To be honest I didn’t come alive until the final bell of the final day of classes in June, when stubbed toes and scraped knees were signs that we were truly alive.
But winter now, has a beauty to it. Man’s and my best friend makes sure to get me out the door at least twice a day, and yes, I catch myself, literally surprise myself, by this knee jerk reaction, under what I might have once described as the gloomiest of skies, saying out loud (we are near the middle of nowhere remember), “this is so damn beautiful.” The air is cold on my face. My fingers might sting. There might be a wedge of wayward snow now melting in my boot just around the warmth of my ankle. But the array of greys, the view of a darkening sky and an impending snowfall, the sheer fact of survival in this cold place, the animal tracks, the snow on the cedar boughs, the naked dance and clatter of branches overhead, the brittle wind off the lake or from across the neighbour’s open field, the cold squeak of snow with each step, is all cause for celebration.
It is a reminder of the simple fact that we are here, alive, on this piece of limestone jutting out into Lake Ontario. I have also taken to sitting for an extra long spell, wrapped in my old but very warm parka, scarf, favourite unflattering hat, mitts and boots, to just be for a while (sometimes with frisbee, sometimes without). Even on a -20 degree celsius day, I have felt the sun’s warmth on my face.
If you are young person reading this, I imagine you will think winter goes on forever and what is this crazy guy talking about, but, sadly, like many things, I am noticing even winters start to come and go a bit quicker year by year, which is why I may be taking more time now to relish them, and my place within them.