Tag Archiv: weather

Whether, wherever, the weather

This is me, casually sharing my insights with interested parties.

Me sharing my insights with interested parties.

I’ve been paying attention to Canada. The impending arrival of friends from a different culture  has me looking for easy ways to break down societal basics. Last week at the gas station, I stumbled on to something.

 

Beautiful day, isn’t it? said the man at the cash.

Lovely, I said. And it’s been the nicest fall.

Hasn’t it? he said. He looked at his monitor and waited. The gas is still pumping, he apologized, You can’t pay yet.

That’s okay, I said. I just came in to stay warm while my husband pumps. No sense in two of us being cold out there.

Yeah, said the man. It’s just miserable out there today, isn’t it?

 

Dear friends from afar,

Canadians aren’t cold: they’re reserved. Except when they really are cold. Then you’ll find them quite warm. We bond here in bad weather. If you’re lucky your first winter, you’ll be to be trapped somewhere with a bunch of cold people. By the time you get out, you’ll be best friends with everybody.

Weather is the gold standard of Canadian verbal exchange. It works with hello, goodbye, nice to meet you, and hope I never see you again. Discussion of windchill, the chance of precipitation, and road conditions are appropriate when making friends, looking for a job, asking for directions, buying a hot dog, or offering condolences on the death of a loved one.

Think of conversations about weather as a kind of social interaction Band-Aid.  The temperature on your porch when you got up at 3 in the morning can tidy up an awkward moment with ease.

You don’t have to speak coherently about the intermingling of warm and cold fronts.  The points that matter are:

1. It’s cold. (Even if it’s not, just say it is. Being cold is part of what makes us superior to the country south of us. It doesn’t matter that they have areas typically colder than southern Ontario. #Americans have the film and music industries: we own the weather.)

2. It’s hot. (You only get to say this for one or two months so practice more on the part about cold.)

3. It’s snowing.

The most important thing to understand about weather is that it’s personal. Frost might have killed one person’s plants and only dusted another’s. People might know it was windy, but they don’t know how many branches fell on your yard. Snow banks are best measured in relatives. Your kindergarten son’s waist or your Aunt Myrtle’s head.

Whatever else they teach you in your ESL class (English as a second language), make sure they tell you what you need to know to talk about weather. When you first get here, people might try to tell you how long the winter is going to be, or how bad it was last year. People especially like to talk about the worst winter disasters they’ve lived through. If that happens, they’re not trying to scare you. What they’re trying to say is, welcome to Canada; you’re one of us now.

 

Together Times, New Year’s and Now

The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler) by Paul Cézanne. 1892-1893. (Interesting Trivia: purchased by Qatar royal family in 2011 for most sum of money ever paid for a work of art.)

The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler) by Paul Cézanne. 1892-1893.
(Interesting Trivia: purchased by Qatar royal family in 2011 for most sum of money ever paid for a work of art.)

The ping pong table was a success. Stunned raised eyebrows that mother dearest was of her own accord introducing things that bounced into the house. Mother dearest has been emotionally challenged with the enthusiastic table shoving involved in preferred methods of set up, but overall, no regrets, and a little training in gift usage is ok.

Girl two had asked repeatedly for Christmas to bring a Barbie horse. I found two possibilities, both for ridiculous amounts of money that I simply couldn’t justify. Unbeknownst to me, her siblings had found a Barbie horse at a second hand store earlier that day for less than a tenth of the price. By Christmas morning it was one of the biggest packages under the tree. (For some reason the kids don’t think they’ve done it right unless there are multiple boxes involved in a packaging exercise.)

We made the best of the mild weather. We took our usual walks and scouted new ones in nearby forests. On boxing day, the kids and I decided that weather that warm the day after Christmas was not to be scoffed at. In snow pants, gloves, hats, and sweatshirts, we hit the bike trails for a rare mid-winter cycle.

Uno games are high on my list, since everyone can play them, but watching Girl one begin her entry into the regular world of cards after Girl two had gone to bed, was a great joy. Some parents sit with baited breath as their child takes their first step, gets on the school bus, or goes for a first overnight. For us, the crossing of the threshold into competitive card games is a joy hard to contain. Girl one was thrilled to be included and appointed me her royal adviser. Not sure where she gets all the drama, but she was happy and we were happy, and with a little reminding about how much help she was getting, Boy two (now taking his own first steps in the world of the now un-coached card player) survived her first few winning hands.

I have dispensed of New Year’s resolutions and have instead arranged some modest goals from now until the end of February, at which time I will re-evaluate. As part of modest goals, Boy one is working on his cooking. Since session one, I’ve adjusted the idea that he’ll magically cook by himself without first cooking together. This was fine for baking, but with cooking it helps to chop side by side, learn to peel the skin off garlic by seeing someone do it, and smell spices together before throwing them in. There’s a heart and soul to cooking that I want to share. And now that I mention it, I want to write about it sometime too, so no more of that for now.

For now, it’s time for the lovely quiet of kids gone back to school.

Of Mice and Men

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Life on a farm subjects me to weather in ways that my previous life did not. Weather changes, dictates, sustains, destroys, and nourishes without consultation or apology. I like to make plans. But rested and ready to go, all hands on deck, and the rain is torrential. Exhausted, ready to drop, out of gas for the tractor, and the sun blazes warm, a breeze comes up and a long day is required. One year is not like another. One spring the lambs thrive, another old farmers shake their heads at all the losses.

Weather is just the tip of the iceberg, one little facet of the great untameable Mother Nature. I like the beauty, I hate the not knowing. Then again, that’s why we chose to have a farm. Things die that aren’t supposed to and cantaloupes sprout unbidden on a manure pile in the field. Ewes bred at the same time give birth two weeks apart, and unidentified living things, bugs and microbes, arrive constantly to help and harm. Out of control is amplified here to a decibel we cannot miss.

It makes me crazy. It keeps me sane. My husband and I have been discussing solutions to the latest fencing problems for weeks. After waiting out the weather, we finally thought we had it. Satisfied with our new barriers, we went in for lunch. By the time we’d finished eating, all the animals we separated were back together again. In the, “who’s in charge of the farm,” game, we had once again, underestimated the wits of our opponents.

Any step in any direction here reveals things that need doing. No matter how long we worked, there would still be more. It’s so far from my control that trying seems almost pointless. I hate that part.

Except when I let it baptize me.

When I walk by choice down the banks of desperate pretending, into the river of big, impossible, unending, unpredictable, uncertainty. When I let go of dry and the worry of what I’m not.  There, water over my head, something true touches me. I am no match for the seeming chaos. As threatening as that is, it is also a relief.

I am one person in a vast universe. A tiny part of a big picture. I don’t know what’s coming next. I couldn’t change it if I did. All kinds of seasons, physical, emotional, and spiritual, will come and go. Grass will grow and grass will die. I will rise each day and go about my business. Some days things will go as planned and other days not so much.

Holding tight on the banks, the fear of my smallness imprisons me. Baptized, it’s different. I’m a little mouse in a very large field, but I’m friends with the guy who owns the hawks.

I’ll forget and run for the banks again. But I’ll get baptized again too. Dripping and free, I’ll pitter patter around the field, come rain or shine.

Good Gifts

I vaguely remember in the lead up to Christmas feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about unfinished lists. Blissfully fuzzy now are all such silly things. I remember the gifts, too many to count. In the telling I am happy all over again.

This year we got three days of an odd snow and freezing rain combination right before Christmas. Holidays can’t be ruined by weather, but it can make them sing a little more. I watched the rain come down and felt a little melancholy about the inevitable destruction of good skating ice on the pond.

Christmas Eve (twas the time for cleaning madly) I opened the outside door to see my daughter’s boots thrown on the snowy ground. Irritated, I commanded into the cold for her to come and explain. She didn’t answer. Her brothers smiled and pointed.

Girl one was skating. All over the yard, around the house, and out into the pasture. Instead of melting the snow or leaving divots all over the place, the freezing rain had hardened six inches of snow into a very hard and smooth surface. Christmas day kids were sledding, skating, and Cross Country skiing, all on the same hills and fields, sometimes side by side.

My favourite gift was a song. Boy one on the piano, girl one on the violin, boy and girl two singing. The First Noel. A surprise performance for me.

The day after Christmas, we went to see my brother and his family. We didn’t fight moving from beds to car. For most of nine hours travelling, we were kind to each other. We have no idea how it happened. I feel asleep that night with gratitude (and wonder). Two families of six (who see each other twice a year) were in a three bedroom house for days. The joy inside me was so loud, I hardly heard the kids.

I love my sister-in-law to death. I also find her organization inspiring. I started sorting and organizing the night we got home and for almost the entire next day. More order and hope are already flooding the place as I head into another day of home improvements.

In closing, the commentary department:

I am in the laundry room. Boy one puts his arms around me from behind.

“Thanks. What’s that for?”

“I feel like I’ve been a jerk today. I just wanted to say that.”

 

Mid morning on the first,  So what if I can’t marry a Dutch girl (like my brother did) at least I can learn from one cleaning day. The girls had cleaning rags in hand. I was arranging shoes. “We’re like Cinderella,” said Girl one. “We work all the time, but we’re really happy.”

During our anniversary celebration, discussion of marriage commenced.

“You guys fight a lot,” said one cheery voice.

I wasn’t sure how to take the appraisal. It surprised me. I was deciding how depressed to feel when boy two interjected, sincere and insistent.

“Mom and Dad don’t fight a lot, Mom’s just right a lot.”

Ah, my young shining knight . . .