It is winter in Canada and most particularly in my home province of Alberta. We have been fortunate to avoid vast quantities of snow, even this late in the season. The roads have not been axle deep in slush and our city has actually made good on its promise to get major routes sanded speedily. Unfortunately, we all know that more snow is coming and that we probably have some very cold weather ahead of us too. We have had one weekend in the -25 Celsius range and we all felt the bite. That’s the temperature at which one has to think about plugging in the car at least an hour ahead of when one wants to use it.
I am a chicken winter driver—not a good quality in a Canadian! I am fortunate that our transit system in Calgary is reasonable for my needs and that I am willing to use it. However, waiting in the cold for a bus or C-train is a tiresome process, especially as we approach the darkest days of the year. Right now, I’m going to work in the dark and coming home in the almost-dark. By 5:30 pm, there is no sign of daylight.
I think our ancient ancestors were wise to schedule a celebration of light in the midst of all the darkness and cold. Yule and its latest incarnation, Christmas, are just what we northern folks need to perk up our short, cold days. The winter solstice will fall on December 21st this year and I plan to recognize and celebrate that shortest day of the year and the gradual return of more sunshine hours.
Today, December 1st, is my father’s birthday. If he was still with us, he would have been 81 today. As it is, he and my mother were killed in a car accident in 1996 and he is frozen in my memory at age 65. I often wonder how life would have been different if that event had never occurred. I suppose that I would be facing the same problems of my friends with elderly parents: deteriorating health of those parents and the need for more care. I can’t really feel lucky that my parents were killed so young, but I must confess that I sometimes feel fortunate to be able to avoid those issues. My father, particularly, would not have been happy anywhere that did not allow him to have gunpowder and ammo in his sock drawer.
So I’m missing my parents today, planning a festive decorating evening and savouring the fact that the days will soon start to get longer again. It’s a time of emotional conflict—a season during which many people want to spend happy times with friends and family (as do I), but tinged by the wish that I could have my two favourite people back, if only for an hour or two. I’m trying to retain my patience with the decorating, the Christmas card issue, the need for gift shopping and the obligatory “festive” parties with people that I really couldn’t care less about. Once again, I am trying to avoid the consumerism of Christmas and focus on what is truly important to me. So, I’m saving my true self for the time with dear friends and family, for sitting with a cup of coffee early in the morning beside the Christmas tree and for the unstructured time during my week away from work between Christmas and New Year’s.
I wish everyone a Joyous Yule. May you have loved ones with whom to spend quality time and some un-busy time to reflect on 2011 and plan for 2012.