Lov­ing win­ter

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - ON SECOND THOUGHT - Laura Byrne Paquet,

Some­times, I run across an ex­pres­sion that,

even though it is gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect, I just don’t un­der­stand. “ I love win­ter” is one of them.

When­ever any­one says this, I nod in­dul­gently, but my brain re­fuses to process the in­for­ma­tion. “ Love” and “ win­ter” seem like di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed con­cepts. Putting them to­gether is akin to say­ing “ ex­cit­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing” or “ de­li­cious lima beans.” The in­di­vid­ual words make sense, but the phrase does not.

I un­der­stand “ re­spect­ing” win­ter. In fact, I show my re­spect by dig­ging out my mon­u­men­tal col­lec­tion of hats, scarves, mit­tens, elec­tric blan­kets, down-filled coats, space heaters and long un­der­wear as soon as the mer­cury drops be­low 10 de­grees.

And I com­pre­hend “ fear­ing” win­ter. It is, af­ter all, the sea­son that brings us weather events with nick­names like “ Snow­maged­don.” You very rarely hear about “ Bloom­poca­lypse” in spring. And, to my knowl­edge, fall­ing leaves have never in­ca­pac­i­tated most of cen­tral Canada’s hy­dro sys­tem.

But “ lov­ing” win­ter? I don’t get it. For most of my adult life, I’ve ap­proached the sea­son like a pa­tient headed for a root canal.

This fall, how­ever, I be­gan ques­tion­ing that ap­proach. Sure, it makes sense if you live in Vic­to­ria, where win­ter of­ten con­sists solely of a week of frost. But in Ot­tawa, where the first snow this year fell be­fore Hal­loween, hat­ing the out­doors for five straight months isn’t quite ra­tio­nal.

Each year, I crawl out of my self-im­posed co­coon some­time in March like a bat blink­ing its way into sun­light. My bones ache, my mid­dle is de­cid­edly thicker and I’m crabby. Re­ally, re­ally crabby.

It didn’t used to be this way. In uni­ver­sity, I of­ten skated from Car­leton to the Rideau Cen­tre, and I felt great. As a child, I’d charge glee­fully into the back­yard to make snow­men, forts and an­gels.

When did I stop play­ing in win­ter and start hat­ing it? Prob­a­bly around the same time I stopped writ­ing purely for fun and try­ing to learn gui­tar. Around the time, in other words, I de­cided to “ grow up.”

A few weeks ago, I was lis­ten­ing on my iPod to an in­ter­view with car­toon­ist Lynda Barry. With a laugh, she re­ferred to “ ev­ery­thing we call ‘ the arts’ and chil­dren call ‘ play.’” The ex­pres­sion stopped me in my tracks.

I re­cently started learn­ing to paint and cre­ate col­lages— two artsy things I haven’t done since Brownie camp. And I’m en­joy­ing ev­ery minute of it. So per­haps this is the year to keep re­learn­ing how to play by fall­ing in love with win­ter again. Maybe this year I’ll skate on the canal more than once dur­ing the sea­son. Maybe I’ll walk to the park and build a snow­man. Or maybe— it’s best to start slowly— it will be enough to look out the win­dow at newly-fallen snow and think “ Oh, how pretty” in­stead of “ Oh rats, time to shovel the front walk.”

How hard can lov­ing win­ter be? Af­ter all, a child can do it.

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