Then and Now…

Yesterday we drove 11/2 hours so my husband could get a COVID vaccination. Everything went well and we were on the way home about noon. With certain restrictions, restaurants and fast food outlets are open. Since we have been erring on the side of caution, Gary chose Subway and we ordered at the counter but took our food to the car.

Eating in the car is a challenge. The cup holder already held hand sanitizer and water so those items had to be moved to make room for the drinks. Then we unwrapped the subs, barked elbows against the doors, and lamented forgetting napkins.

I was about to complain about how much I disliked eating in the car when it occurred to me that in the sixties and seventies, it was an exciting thing. We lived in the sticks so there weren’t a lot of choices BUT even our pokey little town had carhops at the “Dairy Bar.” They brought your food right to the car on a tray they attached to the partially open window. Burgers, fries and drinks were distributed and it seemed so decadent. Normally honest people stole mugs from A and W. The one I took was a favourite of my Dad’s.

“We used to think it was a treat to eat in the car,” I said.

Hubbie looked at me and confessed, “On a Sunday after playing a Saturday fastball tournament, the ‘boys’ would be bored and wondering what to do. Someone would suggest driving an hour get A and W.” Good times.

Once we got home, it was time for the dog walk. Guilt at leaving them alone played on me so I took them on a more novel route. A few days earlier, the open field had been fine. It was good until we had to cross bare ground to access the sidewalk. The bare ground had turned to mud, and I sank in, loading each shoe with about 5 pounds of muck.

Ugh. I did manage to get most of it off by stamping in remaining snow and rubbing the sides of the sneakers against one another. I should know better. When my brother and I were kids growing up on the farm, the spring runoff used to divert into a ditch alongside the road. It would recede leaving the most inviting yellow, sticky clay. Yes, we’d test our rubber boots in it. After getting stuck once, we were warned sternly to “stay out of the mud.” Still we played along side the ditch and my brother went in, sank past his ankles and couldn’t move. He was the younger sibling so I should have been in charge. I tried to pull him out. Several times. He stepped out of the rubbers and I tried to pull them out. No luck. We had to leave his boots, sticking up out of the clay, and go and confess. Mud. Good times.

Then, an adventures. Now, an inconveniences. Even with the annoyances, it was a pretty good day. Old boy vaccinated and I didn’t have to call him to rescue me and the dogs from my own folly. Good times.

The Deep Freeze Ends; an Outdoor Coffee

It’s happened! The Polar Vortex lasted too long and the temperatures were in the minus thirties for daytime highs. People hunkered down and only those brave souls who had to leave the house for work, did. The pandemic added to the “hardship” because even though outdoor gatherings were allowed, no one wanted to freeze or die of hypothermia.

Then yesterday, the high was -4 Celsius or 25 F. My friend texted and our outdoor coffee was a go! Even though it was overcast and there was a bit of wind, we were deprived of laughs and conversation for too long. “Our table” at the park was available and when it started to snow big fluffy flakes, we just laughed. Now veterans of the outside meet-up, we had thick towels for the bench seat and just cleared snow away for our thermoses. It was as good as I anticipated. Laughs, stories, and settling world problems. In the bushes behind chickadees, chirped, English song sparrows called and a downy woodpecker went about “pecking”, oblivious to us. An hour and half that went by too quickly but added so much to the day. We are social beings and a little snow didn’t matter. When I got home, my husband asked ‘what the gossip was.’ I honestly drew a blank. That’s not what we do on our visits; the talk is wide ranging.

Haha- and here we are socially distanced and very representational. The poor woodpecker turned into a blob.

The other great thing about the break in the weather is that the dog walks are without boots and their “coats” are more to keep their bellies warm. Spring is around the corner and I honestly can’t wait.

Stay safe. The days are longer and warmer.

And it’s 99 below

That’s not true. But it is cold, old fashioned high pressure, prairie winter cold. The sun is bright and through the window everything looks inviting; blue shadows on the snow, dark conifers against a pale sky, and car exhaust trailing away like escaping phantoms

.

It looks inviting but the truth of cliche is proven again. Looks are deceiving; step outside and your nose freezes shut, the chill captures your breath as frosted filigree in your eyelashes, and embellishes the fake fur of your hood. Your cheeks tingle and burn. It’s too cold.

Yet outside the window, chickadees flit and feed, a nuthatch sits on the step, and a blue jay balances on the feeder. Once in a while, a bird finds a perch in the sun and tries to catch some of its illusory warmth. A cat skulks by hoping to find shelter.

In the day, the temperature made no difference to my Dad. The chores had to be done, the cattle fed and watered, and the miscellany of other creatures cared for. He’d hitch the team of horses to the rack and load on the feed. Harness jangling, hooves crunching the snow, the horses would pull him out to the waiting herd. The pink nostrils of the cattle leaked steam into the clear air and their bawls welcomed him. There was no missing a day because of weather.

I’m glad to settle in and watch the polar vortex from my window. If I want to hunker down and read a book, snack a bit of comfort food, or even sip a glass of wine, I can. I’m retired. I don’t have to put my nose out of the door so I won’t complain and I’ll enjoy my indoor activity. It’s February and when this cold breaks, spring won’t be far off. There’ll wiener roasts, outdoor visits, and gardening. The cold won’t last.

They’ve got this…

And in 2021- resolutions

As the new year looms, and 2020 has been a tough one for many people, it’s time to make resolutions. Early records suggest that the first to promise improvements in the new year were the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. When Julius Caesar in 46 BC altered the calendar, January 1st was designated the beginning of the New Year. The God Janus is associated with doorways and aches and has two faces, one looking back and one to the future. Early Christians held special services to consider past sins and make promises to do better in the new year. Clergy wanted to provide a spiritual alternative to raucous celebrations.

The roots of the New Year’s resolution are in religion but in modern times the tradition has become secular. It’s just a convenient time to mark one’s determined vow to do better. Success at making actual progress is spotty. Deciding to improve and stick with it, is harder than making the resolution and it’s easy to backslide. Ask the gyms (pre-COVID) why they have such great deals for annual memberships in January.

Most resolutions are made in good faith but new routines don’t “take.” Personally, I have thought of, and even made promises to myself for the new year. Like the majority of people, I’ve been an abject failure. My house is not cleaner, I haven’t written every day, I haven’t conquered my habit of procrastinating.

That isn’t to say one shouldn’t make resolutions. The one time that I kept mine, was New Year’s Eve 46 years ago. I quit smoking. Quit and haven’t looked back. It wasn’t easy and my dearest beloved, walked by as I was writhing in the throes of withdrawal and blew Cigarello smoke in my face. Fortunately, for me, once I became a non-smoker, I soon didn’t feel the craving. I know that’s not true for everyone but I haven’t thought of cigarettes for years. Now the smoke bothers me; my eyes itch and redden.

As luck would have it, smoking has made some people pariahs, relegated to dingy corners outside to indulge their habit. The health concerns associated with the tars, nicotine, and other chemicals are much better researched. I quit before my children were born. I am very grateful for that; retroactive guilt is a nasty thing.

New Year’s resolutions? Sometimes, they do invoke change. 2020 has taught us all a bit about hardship, induced odd behaviour in others. Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year, Everyone.

Dog Boot Dilemma

My dogs are small (the little guy, only 10 pounds) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy all the canine pursuits- sniffing, marking, and going on walks. Best of all are the walks and even though he’s small, he likes a nice long stroll. My other dog is a Jack Russell. She’s three years old and the her breed tells you all you need to know about her energy level.

The annual winter dilemma revolves around keeping them warm while we enjoy the walking trails in our small town. The dogs each have a warm coat so they are fairly tough. It’s their feet that create a problem so we have a rule- when the temperature is lower than -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) we stay home. If there’s no wind, we might manage a shorter walk when it’s colder.

Winter walk

The bigger issue is keeping Scruffy’s (the little guy’s) feet warm. In this picture, he’s wearing the pull-on rubber boots. They were awfully tight around his “ankles” but seemed to work. Then after a couple of walks, when I noticed a little blood on his paws when I took them off. He would lick and lick his front toes and legs. Obviously, the rubber wasn’t doing the job any more. I bought expensive boots from the pet store but they were stiff and I saw a little blood.

The solution wasn’t to leave him behind so that Taz, the Jack Russell would get enough exercise to keep her semi-sane. He cried pitifully, at high volume, and an ear-piercing pitch. I didn’t know what we could do. On warm days (and without new snow), he can forget the boots but there are times he needs them.

In the end, I used Google and found a crocheted pattern for small dog boots. Some old yarn and a little patience (not something I generally have an abundance of) resulted in sock-like boots that he can wear. They aren’t without their problems (yesterday he blew first one on his front paw and then one on a back paw) but once I get them on properly, he hardly notices them. He has one pair so now I have to make my furry friend a second set.

Taz isn’t immune to cold (or sidewalk de-icer) but she’s tougher. If it isn’t too cold, we can make winter work. The fresh air, sights like winter hoar frost, and people skating or sledding make the wait for spring tolerable.

Winter is the Time to

read. Outdoor activities notwithstanding, winter offers long evening hours and more time to read. This year there’s more opportunities than ever to seek out and enjoy books you haven’t had time for earlier. Perhaps because the media is inundated with stories of COVID hardship or maybe because I’ve been thinking about my mum and dad in World War 11, I have been watching documentaries and movies that feature Churchill.

The Splendid and the Vile recounts Churchill and his family’s experience during the Blitz. Larson has consulted many diary entries, official documents, and letters. Some of the sources haven’t been used in other accounts of Churchill’s first year in power. The story of the Blitz is well known but this book not only looks into the dramatic events, but as also explores the lives and feelings of the people directly involved, either in making decisions or as family supporting Churchill.

Diary entries of Goering, WW1 ace, and then Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe look at how the Blitz was conducted from the German viewpoint. Similarly, we are shown how Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, spun the story for the German public and how he attempted to mislead the British.

Churchill had to maintain a fine balance between revealing Britain’s desperate situation and gaining real help from the United States. During that first year (1940-41), American support in any form was unpredictable. Roosevelt did manage to have the Lend Lease Bill approved and some relief was afforded Great Britain which was nearing the limit of its resources. Churchill knew that although this aid was welcome, defeat was inevitable unless America joined the war.

Since it is nonfiction, The Splendid and the Vile is not a fast read but for me, it made the Blitz very real and carried me back to a time when the future of Europe and Great Britain was very much at stake. The People of Great Britain suffered huge casualties, saw cities destroyed, and yet they did not give in. The December 7th attack on Pearl Harbour forced American entry to the war. After that, victory was likely although it took four more years of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Churchill inspired the British people to keep fighting when it seemed hopeless. He was an amazing personality, just the man for the time.

Winter Fun – Part Two

Cross-country skiing is a fine exercise and can be a lot of fun. At one time, we’d get together with friends for an afternoon of the great outdoors on skies. I confess to buying (and wearing because it was expensive) a blazing yellow outfit. Chances are I would never be lost; like a winter dandelion, I stood out.

The outfit isn’t quite bright enough.

Once at the “creek”, we started off with one of the gentlemen in the lead. After a bit of what I considered bossy competition, I decided to venture out on my own. How can you get lost in a small area where the choices of trails are limited? You can’t because you can see into the valley to your destination but there was no route down. Trees, shrubs, and bush blocked my descent. By the time I determined that I was going to have to make my way through this uncharted territory, the other skiers had already gathered by the bonfire.

I pushed off and sank into the snow past my knees. Still it had to be faster to continue on skis. Undergrowth tangled around my feet and interrupted my downward progress. A couple of times I fell but by this time I was committed and climbing back up the steep slope wasn’t an option. I more or less tumbled and stumbled my way back to the others. And I was right about my visibility. Everyone watched my awkward descent and on arrival at the bonfire, I was greeted by unsympathetic laughter.

I paid for my stubbornness but those who followed the leader encountered their own challenges. They skied along the top of the hills before heading into the valley. Then they skimmed along the smooth snow-covered surface of the frozen creek until their route was interrupted by fallen trees. Once they managed to navigate those obstacles, a beaver dam blocked their way. The creek continued 10 feet below the pond created and everyone had to clamour down.

By the time we gathered around the bonfire, the fresh air and exercise had stoked appetites. Anecdotes were exchanged while smokies and wieners cooked over the fire. That simple fare never tasted so good. Winter can be fun.

A Better Christmas 2020

Hollywood winter which is depicted in movies as gentle snow with no need to wear gloves, toques, and winter boots is over. Even blizzards have bare-headed heroes in film and that’s the kind of weather we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Today was different. Old Man Winter crept in with fog and painted the landscape with hoar frost. It was chillier and it’s going to get cold. Real winter is on the way.

Hoar frost today.

Alberta has entered a period of new COVID restrictions that coincide with the change in weather. No more indoor visitors; only the people you reside with. No outdoor visitors. Outdoor activities are permitted if you do them with the people of your household. You can skate, toboggan, sled, walk, skate. But you aren’t supposed to meet family or friends to do it. There are rules for retail outlets as well. Christmas gatherings are limited to, you guessed it, your household. this means me, Gary and the dogs. I guess it’ll be a little quieter. Am I happy about not seeing my grandkids and kids? NO. But I understand the reasons. Alberta has high infections levels and unless we isolate, they will continue to rise so Christmas is different.

A friend and I were bemoaning via text message the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing anyone this holiday. She said, “This year it will be just me and N___. But we’re going to have Christmas in July. We’ll meet our son and his girlfriend at a campsite and celebrate then.” What a revelation! The family part of Christmas can be postponed and the spiritual part can be observed by reading scriptures, meditating, praying by yourself or attending online services. Christmas get-togethers are postponed until summer. Retailers have been observing Christmas in July for a long time. Now we’ll be doing that, too. Barbecued steak, potato salad, and beverages around the campfire. I can hardly wait.