The Turn

A White Day

I live in Canada. Winter is cold, and there’s a lot of dark. Sometimes the days are brilliant—shining, blue skies, the cold white eye of the sun, and everything glitters like the inside of a diamond. Often these are the days when the cold steals your breath, making you cough, where it┬áknifes through your thighs as you walk, bores a hole between your eyes were even the warmest scarf can’t cover.

Then there are the white days, the prairies’ special trick, where the sky is white, the land is white, and the horizon becomes only a guess. Everything is a middling, dull-white shade. It does not glitter, just fades slowly into night.

Cold Coming In

The nights are long. You rise in darkness, running from blankets to robe to sweaters as quickly as possible. Often it’s dark again by the time you leave work. Entire work weeks can pass in darkness. Months pass without feeling the sun’s warmth on your cheeks.

Vogue tobacco?

There are blizzards, confections of wind and snow to make you stare in awe. Cars creep hesitantly along the roads, snowflakes whirling like unsteady stars, hiding everything: the road’s edge, the lane markings, the oncoming traffic. You stock your car: blankets, candles, chocolate bars. The danger is not so much going off the road. It’s going off the road, too far from help, where you’ll sit in your idling car until the fuel runs out and then the cold seeps in, and you either wait for it or walk for it. That’s when people die. Blizzards are the moments when you bow your head and admit defeat; allow nature her supremacy, and stay home, preferably with a fire and hot chocolate, and tell the story of the farmer who lost his way in a blizzard going from house to barn, and how long it was before they found his frozen body.

Remains

I don’t love the cold. I don’t love winter. I don’t love the prison our houses become, the prison our clothes become, layers piled on layers, constricting and restrictive. I don’t do many of the fun things that make winter worthwhile up here—I don’t skate, play hockey, ski or snowboard.

But I do love the holidays. I love taking a few moments, here at the blackest end of the year, to enjoy the people around me. I love the convergence of roads that lets me see my relatives in wild, energetic bouts, all at once, rather than one or two at a time. I love the food, the lights, the decorations.

I love turkey with cranberry sauce.

Shot with tree.

And I love knowing that, after today, no matter how cold the weather or how majestic the storms, the days will be getting longer, and sooner or later the ground will soften, the snow will melt, and spring will be here.

Happy Solstice, everyone! I hope your holidays are full of family, friends, and togetherness—and if not, then I hope they’re at least filled with other things that make you happy.

(photographs of an abandoned shack at my grandmother’s farm)

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40 Comments

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40 responses to “The Turn

  1. KC

    Happy Solstice to you, too. This is a really beautiful post.

  2. Happy Solstice to you too!

  3. Around here, we say “Happy Birthday”…my hubbin’s…born, as he likes to say, on the darkest day of the year.

    I admit that other that your sewing, I don’t know much about you. Are you a writer? You should be…this is a beautiful post.

    Wishing you and your lovely family a most blessed Christmas.

    • Aww, thank you! I’m not a published writer, although it’s definitely one of my fantasies…

      If you click on my “Participation” tab there’s links to some old blog award posts that have some trivia about me and my family :).

  4. The pleasure of snow is finding the warmth. We don’t get it very often in the UK but when we do I go outside in the dead of night and just listen. It’s silent. Snow silences everything. Then all you can hear are your own footsteps and suddenly everything feels very peaceful and calm. It’s very rare to hear nothing where I live so that’s the joy snow brings to my life. The rest of the time it’s observed, at distance, in great comfort, behind a pane of glass. I don’t do ‘cold’ ;D

    • I don’t “do” cold, either! (Seriously, I’m a major weather wimp). But much as I dislike winter, I definitely appreciate the rest of the year more because of it…

      Those silent moments you describe sound beautiful.

  5. Your post read like a cosy magazine article. It should be published.

  6. happy solstice to you too! I’m afraid to say anything about the weather here, lest it take a turn for the worse, but I can’t wait to have sun morning and evening again.

    • Yes, if you’re having genuinely nice weather, please don’t tell me about it ;). It’s a lot easier to get through winter if I don’t think about the people who don’t have to deal with it… ;) (Joking… mostly)

  7. Mercy

    Happy Solstice Tanit, your winter scares me, the dark is bad enough in the south of the UK. Here’s to longer days from now.

  8. Fabulously written! You took me straight back to my youth in Northwestern Montana….such perfect descriptions of the winters there. At least I skied. & skated. & sledded. But I’ll take warmth & sunshine any day, tyvm!

    Happy Solstice to you as well :)

    • Yeah, Montana is not terribly far away as these things go :). Although actually I find the weather here in southern Alberta comparatively mild. The chinooks keep the cold from really settling in…

  9. Lovely post. My husband and I were talking about the differences between Manitoba and GTA (I won’t say Ontario because it’s not true everywhere) winters. Here it’s cold but not long enough to snow, I feel like I’m in Vancouver. He doesn’t miss the cold, but he misses the pretty aspects.

    I read the title for your post and my first thought was the Anne of Green Gables mini-series where Gilbert “got ‘de turn”.

    • My parents spent a year or two in Hamilton when they were first married… my mother is still scornful about what the GTA folks considered “winter” ;)

      • Oh in Hamilton at that. Steel town is prettier from a distance than up close (although home to Bra Makers Supply). I have lovely memories of driving down the mountain after visiting my aunts in Brantford, desparately trying to wake up to see all the lights below. She’s got a point at being scornful, this fall has been particularly rainy and overcast.

  10. Happy Solstice! I am an indoor person (I know, such a shock) and I love days like this precisely because it removes any impetus to be outside. I grew up in an area that had snow and the occasional blizzard, and well remember getting up early to find out from the radio if school was closed for the day. Even now, living in a warmer climate, I thoroughly enjoy our occasional storms with rain that comes down sideways and floods every flat surface until the streets turn to rivers.

    Beautiful post!

    • Unfortunately, I lived in a snow-ready region. We had one snow-day when I was in kindergarten… and I don’t think there was another until Tyo was in kindergarten twenty years later. (And even then that was only the second or third day of the paralyzing blizzard.)

      My husband love the torrential rainstorms… we don’t get many of them, compared to blizzards, however.

  11. Great post. You speak of crazy things that us Aussies just don’t get. Happy Solstice!

  12. What an evocative, well-written essay. I think I’ll print this out.

    Next time I’m feeling the endless blasting sunlight boring through my body I’ll write you something for your sunless days.

    • Aww, thank you! As I said above a couple of times, I generally try to forget that much of the world has significantly more clement climate in the winter. It makes life easier. Telling me how awful the heat is would be good, too, though.

  13. I wish we got more snow– we get it maybe once a year– but I can’t do the cold either. I would never make it. Lovely post!

    • I suspect if I can handle it, anyone can. I’m the first person to throw on a hat in the fall… I put my long-johns on as soon as it gets below -10C, and wrap up with a scarf over my nose long before that. And I’m always, always wearing a sweater because I’m too cold indoors. /sigh.

      I shouldn’t complain too much. We haven’t had a real cold snap yet this year, and really while there’s definitely snow on the ground, it’s melting more days than it’s not. These southern Alberta winters are pish. ;)

  14. Bri

    You’re definitely not wrong about how ridiculously cold it can get here or the brutal dark days that we go through and etc but I still love winter (don’t hate me :-) although I started snow boarding a couple of years ago and that changed my perspective drastically!

    Merry Christmas!

  15. What a beautiful post! Winter still doesn’t really feel like it’s hit us yet, since we don’t have all that much snow here in southern Manitoba, and have only had a handful of days below -20C. I’m dreading when the real cold hits us, because my field-work-dominant job – including soaking your nitrile-gloved hands in water as you collect groundwater samples – is going to truly suck big time once it does.

    Still, this post highlights most of the things that I love about winter here. I missed it when I was living in southern Ontario. You have a lovely way of wording things, and I the lazy student in me wants to copy/paste this into my own blog. :D I think I might be caught, though, even if I hadn’t ratted myself out here!

    Also, very cool shed.

  16. This was wonderful, thank you. Happy Solstice!

  17. Happy Solistice! I’m glad it doesn’t get quite as cold over here, but I also feel the constriction of the layers of clothes and the ever present gloom. Here’s to lengthening days and the spring that’s inching nearer. :)

  18. LinB

    Oh, this description of winter is so lovely, and so foreign to me! Just looked outside to realize that we will have to mow the lawn again this week. Recent heavy rains have greened up the place: Winter in central North Carolina is more brown than white, as a rule. Stay warm, be happy.

  19. Lucy

    Happy Solstice! Believe me, we’ve been counting down to it too. I must admit, I like it when we get snow here – it feels like ‘proper’ winter rather than just chilly, wet and drab and grey.

  20. sewforward

    My grandmother came from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and would tell us stories about growing up on the praire and the snowy winters – of course, for us, we loved these stories because we were all southern California kids and only saw snow on special trips to the mountains. Loved the post about your daughter sewing a purse. It is always great to see and hear about someone taking up sewing. Have a great holiday season.

  21. Amy

    What a beautifully written post. I feel as if I’m right there with you. That winter horizon is really something, almost opposite of Texas’ horizon in summer–both grand and quieting. I grew up in Michigan and while the blizzards aren’t as harsh, I definitely know both the poetry and the frustrations of winter. I skated and sledded but hated that even after having 3 layers of thermal socks and moon boots (oh, the 80s) it felt like my toes were cut off. When I was a child, I used to be so happy at Christmas, knowing from there on out, the days were getting longer. Summer couldn’t come soon enough. But the snow of December is the prettiest, before it gets all slushy and regular sightings of dead bucks along the road become the norm.

    Merry Christmas!

    (I don’t know which is worse–the heat or cold. I feel like my brain goes numb, not my toes–and the sun is so high, so direct, has no mountains to filter past, it really bores a hole in my head. Although I do confess that overall, the sunshine has been better for my mental health.)

  22. I live in Vancouver and I wear long johns any day the temp is predicted to be below 5C (that’s +5). It’s the dark and the gray that gets me here. We’ve had a decent autumn – a fair number of sunny days. Usually it’s overcast from November to May. And here in the city everything is grey. Skies, streets, sidewalks.
    Peace to you as the days get longer.

  23. what a gorgeous post. it’s like an excerpt from a novel. I LOVE it.

    I caught the teeniest glimpse of your cold… I hope you’re sipping chocolate in a velvet snuggie (for fashion factor) and playing with your pfaff. merry merry!

  24. Joy

    This was like poetry. Very nice.
    I just watched a documentary on the “Donner Party”, which your cabin pictures make me think of for some reason.
    The dark and cold get to me, too. I don’t think they make boots warm enough to keep my toes un-numb.
    We keep sleds in the back of our van!
    And the Pfaff is a wonderful gift. Enjoy it!

  25. Amazing post, thanks for reminding me of the beauty of Winter. . .and that the days are getting longer!

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