Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 10: morning, noon and night

This morning was a perfect winter's morn: cold, clear, sunny. A thin layer of snow lay on the ground. Morning commuters hurried by with their shoulders hunched, trying in vain to keep out the chill. I worked; the radio chattered on in the background. The sunlight made its tour of the walls. The pile of eraser crumbs on my desk expanded ever outward.

This afternoon I was beset by a sudden craving for brownies, and not just any brownies, but the brownies of my childhood. Nothing else would do. This is not a gourmet recipe—there's no melted chocolate, no half-dozen eggs or three cups of sugar—but it's my favourite. It reminds me of wintery Saturday afternoons, birthday parties and bake sales, report cards. The original was pencilled in a cramped hand in the back of one of my grandmother's Five Roses Flour cookbooks, its pages yellowed with time and use, fractions obscured by stains. There's a certain kind of nostalgia that can only be sated by the magical combination of a time-worn recipe, a favourite wooden spoon, and an old Pyrex mixing bowl. 

This evening I watched the sun set from the commuter train, headed west. I ride in the upper level because I love the feeling of gliding along, high over the earth. I saw skeins of geese heading south and ditches full of tangled weeds, milkweed pods blasted open by the wind. The river at Port Credit has iced over; not enough to skate on, but that will come soon enough. Snow had caught in the ripples in the ice; the resident swans and ducks were nowhere to be seen. It made me shiver.

Late at night I walked into a house that still smelled of brownies baking, with an undertone of pine. The refrigerator turned off; the radiator turned on. It's oh so quiet. 

And tomorrow, it starts all over again.

Friday, December 6, 2013

December 6

In among the gift-knitting projects I'm juggling, I've been sneaking in a few rows a day on my Wesley Bobs. Well, Wesley Bob, singular, to be precise. Considering how few stitches it has, by rights I ought to be finished by now, but I seem to be proceeding at a snail's pace. That's fine by me. Sometimes, you can eat a chocolate bar in one go, and sometimes you want to savour it a bite at a time. Same principle.

I've yet to find my festive mode, so this weekend I'm going to get serious. I'll be up early tomorrow and off to the farmer's market to get my fir branches for my "tree." I'll sneak half an hour to drink a peppermint mocha and draw up a Christmas list. And maybe I'd better make some of that Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread. (S + S, that link is for you. Enjoy!)

What do you do to help bolster your Christmas spirits?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3

Up early again this morning. It's black, black, black out there at 6 a.m., black enough to make me wonder what all the fuss about changing the clocks was about. I sit with my back to the window and work through the early morning hours, the first of many cups of tea by my side, and I know the sun has started to rise when I see the shadows gradually appear on the wall in front of me. As the morning wears on, they begin to slide across the wall in slow motion. Finally, when the sun begins to warm my shoulders, I get up and put the kettle back on and think about going for a walk, but the stack of reading almost always calls me back.

And oh, there is so much to read right now. School's over for the semester, so there is marking to attend to and I've got some editing work on the go. It's good to be busy but I am eagerly anticipating the quiet season. After the holidays, another series of transitions lies in wait – moving from one year to the next, from one school to the next, from one project to the next – but before that I'll have a bit of breathing space. I'm looking forward, as I always do, to the days between Christmas and the New Year; time to rest, reflect and gather my forces for the year ahead.

But first, Christmas. This year I'm thinking about replacing my tiny silver tinsel tree with a vase of pine boughs, hung with knitted ornaments. I've missed the scent of pine. This will be the year I finally make a house or two for the Christmas village I'm so inexplicably fixated on. (I'll need a miracle in balsa wood.) 

Gifts this year need to be handmade and heartfelt, too: tiny, intricate knitted things; homemade cookies and candy and fruitcake; handwritten cards and letters, with photos – stories from the year just past and hopes for the year to come. I'm giving the gifts I hope to receive.

But all that is three weeks away. Until then, I'll keep trying to find the bright spots and quiet moments in these dark winter days, and to celebrate them whenever and however I can: lighting a candle at dusk, sitting in the gloaming with a cup of tea, silently counting the stitches as I knit, savouring dinner with a friend. I'll make sticky cranberry gingerbread and spend an evening addressing cards by the light of the twinkle lights, and I'll keep the faith until the days start lengthening again.