Seasons

seasons

Congratulations, folks! We’ve made it through the summer, and it’s autumn again.  Where does the time go?  Over the years, I’ve given summer a pretty bad rap, and even though it clearly deserved it, I should apologize.  Sorry, summer — you hot, sweaty mess!  Actually, I shouldn’t be so hard on summer.  It’s just one of the seasons and, as they say, “To every season/there is a reason.”  Vivaldi knew this and wrote some cool music to demonstrate it.  So, even though I’m no Vivaldi, here’s my take on the four seasons.

Winter is for the mind.

Winter is thick books and old libraries; dusty, hard-to-find bookstores cluttered with forgotten, twice-told stories.  It’s big socks, ankle-bunched and comfortable.  It’s long, dark hours and hot tea, quilted with spice.  It’s pages of adventure that sip like cups of soup, hand-warm and held close to your face.  It’s cozy against the lonely cold scratching at the windows and crowded with imagination.

Spring is for the spirit.

Spring is splashy rain and wide, warm mornings; flocks of shepherdless clouds, grazing the sky.  It’s busy-bird busy, darting on the breeze, beaks full of new-nest enthusiasm.  It’s turned dirt, moist with tender green promises … that there will be flowers.  It’s trees awake with tiny, inexperienced fingers, first fluttered in the singing afternoon.  It’s bare arms and short skirts and sly, secret smiles that catch your eye like jewelry.

Summer is for the body.

Summer is painted bright toenails and young girls, lithe as deer, dancing in the sand.  It’s sun-hot games, smooth with muscles.  It’s music, laugh -loud and twisting.  It’s fresh-cut grass and scented gardens and spray cool water.  It’s tickle and giggle and chasing with excitement.  It’s coloured drinks that drip, and honey-coated skies and jokes and teases and everyone talking at once.

Autumn is for the soul.

Autumn is scarves and gloves and hair, finger-combed and tangled.  It’s crisp crumbled leaves cremated on the wind and scattered.  It’s walking in the low, grey afternoon, coat buttoned and no place to go.  It’s a park bench, forgotten in the bony trees that whisper the words of a poem you can’t quite remember.  It’s a love song that no longer makes you cry.  It’s old friends and long ago’s and all the things we forfeit to time.  It’s a pause at the window while the world walks by.

Now, A Word About Snow

snow2017
View from my deck

Meanwhile in Vancouver, Canada, a couple of days ago, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter got together in a romantic embrace and — Bullshit! Last Thursday night, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter had spectacular, incredible sex — and they went at it all weekend like a couple of perverted porn stars.  The result was (and still is) a snow storm of biblical proportions.  The roads are icy, the sidewalks are impassable, buses are as rare as unicorns and you need to produce holy relics to get a taxi.  In short, my town has turned into an illustration from the Book of Revelation.

FYI — There is a universal myth that my country, Canada, is a gigantic vertical refrigerator sprinkled with igloos and Inuit, while the rest of us cling to the 49th parallel as if the USA were a bowl of hot soup.  The fact is, 99.99% of that myth is true, except for my town, Vancouver (Vangroovy, as it is affectionately called) where the local word for “bad weather” is — well — we don’t actually have one.  Normally, we have the kind of weather California used to brag about — before the droughts, fires and pestilence.  Our golf courses are open year round, it’s not recommended but you can wear shorts all winter and — on most days — play tennis in them.  Trapped between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has weather so different from the rest of Canada that the children here think Disney’s Frozen is a horror movie.

And that’s the problem.  We are not prepared for this white crap.  We have no idea what it is.  On Thursday evening, the snow was beautiful, drifting in the dark, covering everything in a crystal blanket that sparkled in the quiet light.  But by Friday morning, it was showing its teeth — growling and snarling at anybody who ventured out — driving them into the ditch and shoving them off the sidewalk.  Then on Saturday and Sunday,  things just got nasty.  It was as if Jack Frost was channeling Jack the Ripper and they were both trying to decide where to stick the icicle in next.  Vancouver’s snow removal crew (three guys with two shovels) finally gave up and hid out in a bar, and the only thing left for the good citizens of Vangroovy to do was lock the doors and pray.

Now it’s Tuesday with no relief in sight.  So would everybody who reads this please pray for rain in Vancouver — so we can get back to normal and the rest of Canada can start hating us again?  Thank you!

Child’s Christmas In Saskatchewan (2016)

Christmas never came slowly to the old house on Avenue E.   It didn’t come sneaking in on a prairie breeze Christmas card morning, when the night-fresh snow shone sparkling silver in the early sun.  It didn’t whisper or reindeer jingle bell with merry elves laughing like flutes in the faraway air.  Christmas came, bold and fully clothed, directly to our door like a medieval merchant, thick with wonder.  When the mailman (they were all men, back then) brought the Sears Christmas Catalogue, he delivered unto us the loot of princes, and suddenly it was Christmas.

family-xmas

Heavenly hosts of handymen made Kenner skyscrapers high beyond reaching.  Choirs of cowboys sang, Paladin brave, with serious six-guns.  Crybaby dolls for sisters (who hogged) while the drums of a thousand little plastic warriors attacked Fort Apache (some assembly required.)  But all that was for later — dreamed and re-dreamed as the long December evenings glaciered along.

First, Christmas was music; foot-pumped school piano tunes practiced like Pavarotti, our oval mouths glor-or-or-ying like cherubim.  Sweet as angels, we came upon a midnight clear like shepherds watching their flocks near the little town of Bethlehem.  But not me — no, not me — I was a king.  A bath towel sheik with a dog-hair beard, I carried gold to the Savior so many times, so carefully, that I ripped my throat sick and never sang again that season (or any other I can recall.)  So it was the choirs I remember, church holy music that surged down the Eaton’s Department Store escalator, filling Men’s Wear full and spilling out into the street.  And there were radio carols: Perry Como, Gene Autry, Brenda Lee and the inevitable Tommy Hunter — singing forever and again on CFQC.  Or the television Christmases with Our Pet Juliette and Andy Williams and Harry Belafonte, who sang “Mary’s Boy Child” like a stained glass window.  The great choirs of Vienna and Westminster glowed television-blue into our living room as we lay on the floor, chin-down on parkas between the oil burner and the dog.  Their black and white RCA Victor voices sorrowed and sighed like celestial harps born to us once a year.  But it was “Silent Night” that was really Christmas — and in our town, we heard it in German.

And Christmas was decorations and cards.  We coloured Santa Clauses and made cross-cut Christmas trees that never stood still.  We looped and glued and looped and glued miles of paper chains that hung from the windows and maybe the tree — next year.  There were cards from everyone, painted with Christmases we’d never seen before.  Snow-heavy cottages trapped in the woods.  Carolers with long scarves and top hats sang Christmas under streetlamps.  Jolly flying moonlight Santa Clauses with (not enough) reindeer.   Plump stockings hung by the chimney with evil looking nails.  There were angels with trumpets and Wise Men and Bethlehem mangers too numerous to count.  Once, two hands with wine glasses wished us all a Happy New Year, one holiday too soon.  There were always too many cards, and the leftovers stood crowding the living room tables like refugees waiting for no room at the inn.

And every year, on the last day of school, mother would find the boxes, from no one knew where, that had the Christmas ornaments – the ones for the tree — because nothing was Christmas before there was a tree….

———

The Christmas tree on Avenue E was the biggest thing I’d ever seen.  It stood in our living room like the edge of the forest, dark with mythology.  It was living green — in a shale-grey world of lost horizons.  And then: decorated by sisters, it shone like a towering angel with glass and gold ornaments from a time before a forgotten war.  They were paint-flaked old and saved precious from year to year — each one a story told until they were all forgotten.  But magic is an eternal tale, whispered by winter to children who were reminded they needed to be very good that year.  Good children got presents, but that was for later.  They lay hidden like treasure, in mother’s vast cedar chest, so cleverly concealed that only I and Santa Claus knew they were there.

But before that, Christmas was people.  Friends from the street, who played long afternoon games until nobody won and it was time to go home.  Huff-puffing neighbours, who swore and shovelled at snow stranded cars, ornery and cold, that wouldn’t go where they were supposed to.  We all helped and pushed when we were told and “got the hell out of the way” when we weren’t.  Boyfriends who became brothers-in-law and let me sit with the men; other adults we only saw once a year and never again; who told us we’d grown and remembered us when.  And everybody — coming home for Christmas.

When I was a kid, Christmas was our whole family gathered and growing, year after year, until no single table could hold us.  But we tried for such a long time.  Sisters became mothers and parents became grandparents, and then nieces became mothers and sisters became grandparents too.  New children have new Christmases.  Old children have memories, carefully wrapped and saved precious, like paint-flaked ornaments on a long ago tree.  And now we’re all gone from the old house on Avenue E.  Finding our own lives like rolling thistles shaken loose by the prairie wind.  And our children remember their own Christmases and their children, too.   But once, not that long ago, a giant tree shone holy in the deep grey prairie afternoon.

Merry Christmas, Everybody