Escaping winter

The inaugural dump

I write this mostly for my own benefit as Robbie and I and the extended de Fleuriot’s are booking it to the south where we will spend Christmas. While I am there enjoying the heat and the truly warm sun (not the relative warm sun we get here in AB) I am sure that the tricks of winter will escape my mind and I might have to learn them all over again. So I have decided to draw my thoughts out of my brain and onto the keyboard in order that I may not forget them.

I admit that my true winter experience is limited, however, last year I did think about winter and how to deal with its sneaky ways quite a bit. I am sure that my true Albertan friends may find my ways extreme or ridiculous, but that’s ok because I can probably dress and cope with 6 months of seemingly strait rain in a manner that they may not possess.

My thoughts of note are as follows:

1. Embrace the ice. It will be there for a long time. The most important part of this process is buying ice-worthy shoes. This means forget walking outside in flats, toms, or any flimsy shoe with no grip. The ice is navigable. It is indeed possible to be the master of the vast seas of ice. Start by walking with purpose. Each footstep must hit the ground decisively or else somehow the ice will know that you are afraid of it’s potential peril. You will mostly win this battle, but with this combative attitude you also must accept that you will inevitably fail. Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s physio worthy… Good thing I have one of those handy specialists around.

Icy spots

2. Toques are cute, but they are also necessary. I would say that the dividing line for me for absolute needed toque wearing weather is -8 degrees and colder. This is mostly in part due to the wind chill. Holy moley that wind can truly demolish your collective body heat. And believe me… having your noggin covered is worth the static engulfed hair. I have to admit that that is the hardest part. There are those that wear toques in the winter like flip flops in the summer, I do not fall into that category. I am now prepared to have oddly shaped hair, but the flip side is I will be warm enough to think coherently.

Note: wrapping a scarf around your face will save your face extreme discomfort. Breath into said scarf to increase its effectiveness.

3.  Buy winter tires. Even if you get into a fender bender you have the peace of mind to say “I even had winter tires.”

4. Be careful about when you wear long johns. They do provide necessary extra heat, but they also can quickly transition to providing unnecessary extra heat. This can cause awkwardness at social gatherings when you are in the middle of a conversation and you start to feel faint because you are so over layered. Bite the bullet, get out of the conversation and take the long johns off. Your thighs will thank you.

5. Invest in a good pair of woolen socks. Pay up $25 or more for them. This would seem absurd to me before my prairie winters, but having feeling in my toes is something I am willing to pay a premium for.

6. Lastly, while you can look ‘cute’ in winter, save it for the indoors. When you’re outside just boot up, tire up, toque up, scarf up, and sock up. Create your own subtropical climate under your many layers.

With that I won’t think about winter for a good 2 weeks until my return to Canada. I think I’ll go sit on the deck now and enjoy a cup of tea.

The Spring of Winter, which is also known as Autumn.

I was originally going to call this post “The Spring of Winter.” You see the idea was that I would explain the difficulties of being in the in between of a season before its true self is made known, like how in Spring you often wear a skirt of flip flops before you really should wear them. You get cold and wet and you often regret it. It’s a hazard of the transition. In the case of winter it is confusing in how it’s milder days remind us just how bitter and cold it really can be at it’s worse, but it is not really that bad yet so we overcompensate. So I thought a clever title was ‘The Spring of Winter.’ However, Robbie pointed out that we already have a word for that or rather an entire season for that particular process: Autumn. I guess he got me there. We had a good laugh over that one. And with that self mockery I will commence.

Autumn skies just south of Camrose

Things are changing here in Camrose. We are in transition from the gentle, yet crisp lull of Fall to the stark freezing temperatures of Winter. I know that the deep freeze is sneaking up on us, not just because of the time of the year, but because the signs are everywhere. For example on Friday morning we had a light dusting of snow. It looked just like a childhood Christmas decoration that my mom had: a row of miniature ceramic houses all lined up beautifully. The perfect Christmas scene. My mom used to take icing sugar and sprinkle it over that little hamlet to imitate snow. Camrose looked just like that on Friday morning, but it was gone by noon. There’s also the nighttime temperatures. We’ve reached -15° a few nights in a row now, but it always warms up to about 2 or 3 degrees during the day, a surprisingly warm 2 or 3 degrees. Also the water has taken a lot longer to get hot coming out of the faucet and the kitchen tile this morning was distinctly cold. I rushed back to the bedroom to grab my slippers before finishing preparing breakfast. On top of that our old apartment building, which I’m guessing was built somewhere in the 1950’s is working over time heating itself. This is apparent by the random tick-tick-tick and banging noises coming from the heaters. These are all tell tale signs of what has somewhat arrived, but is yet to come.

With this transition comes my greatest frustration of this time of year: over layering. This morning I was over zealously dressed as I had seen the -15° forecast when I first woke up at 9 or so, which was really 10 or so due to daylight savings. We left to go to 11am mass at St. Francis Xavier. The moment my skin hit the outside air I knew I had overdressed. I wore jeans, boots with socks, an undershirt, a long sleeve u-neck shirt and my massive wrap sweater that Santa got me for Christmas last year. To top it off I wore my North Face jacket. I determined out loud to Robbie in the car that the jacket was an overdress and decided to leave it behind. Then the moment we found our place in the church during the Gloria (these retirees start mass about 3 minutes early) I was smoking hot. I just breathed deeply until I self regulated my temperature (this really does work) and enjoyed our parishes test run of the new translation of the mass. We went for coffee after mass as McDonald’s as there is free coffee there this week, and by the time we headed home I didn’t even have my sweater on.

It has continued to be a lovely fall day. Even now as I am waiting for my banana bread to come out of the oven and I type away on the couch, I’ve opened the window just a crack to let some of the brisk air. -4° ain’t so bad.

There is something lovely about this time of year, but it also looms with the promise of what is to come. I assume the worst of the weather. I assume my snot will be freezing and my toes rendered useless in the feeling department. I assume my car won’t start and I’ll have to scrape it down every morning. I think back to last November when Calgary was called the 2nd coldest place on earth at -32°, -41° with the windchill, coming second only to Antartica. On that same day Mami and Papi in Dubai were living it up with a high of 29° and a low of 19°. That was a bit hard to take. But there are perks with the season we call winter. For example my hair doesn’t get dirty nearly as quickly when its this cold and dry. There’s also the previously noted fresh air. And the most magical of all, a blanket of snow. And who can forget those jack rabbits turning all white and getting chubby. I, of course, cannot forget Christmas or the beautiful liturgical lead up to it in Advent.

So therefore, I think I can take this winter in stride. I will try my best to still enjoy your great playground even when it is covered with snow and ice.

A South African curls

On another note and in honor of All Saints Day from this past Tuesday here’s a beauty from St. Theresa of Liseaux…

“Love consumes us only in the measure of our self surrender”

And from the aforementioned new translation of the mass…

“Lord, I am not worthy

that You should enter under my roof,

but only say the word

and my soul shall be healed.”

Yup, it’s going to be a good winter and a good advent!