from: 'Memory Trails, Our Desire Lines'
Frost on windows. The crystal-web designs that would appear overnight. How could nature be so exquisite? So intricately detailed and creatively random?
All throughout my childhood living in Ontario, whether it be St. Thomas or in the rural countryside of Alvinston, I remember winter mornings of frost.
I believed there had been an artist at work, carefully and magically sketching with ice on the windows while the household slept.
He hasn't come by since those early years.
Properly insulated windows have drawbacks.
Living in an old farmhouse with your next door neighbour on the block a few miles down the road, the only thing between you being fields of beans or corn, a deep and wide ditch and the dirt road -- when winter came and brought the snow there was nowhere for it to go but up close to the house, surrounding it in high drifts that would sweep up in sculpted swirls. The fields were leveled by Fall's harvest and there was nothing much else to stop the snow except for a barn here and there, a piece of farm machinery with the houses so far apart.
Once, I wanted to make a snow fort. I was a teenage girl with a shovel, standing on the snow that reached the height of the window, behind the house digging my way down to the ground. I don't know how I managed to do it but I did, imagining myself to have the strength to create some elaborate labyrinth to lead out to the shed where beside herbs and wild rhubarb grew during the summer.
I made it to the bottom straight down and had begun a ways on the tunnel when it was demanded that I return inside. Not only was it too cold outside for this sort of nonsense, but the snow from that height could have collapsed on me at any time. Would it have? I'm not sure.
I'll also never know if I could have made it across the lawn. (Likely not)
But that focused determination - to create, to imagine, to push the body beyond limitations - how do I find that again?
I wouldn't care if all the walls I create collapsed, if I could only be that passionate, determined, believing one.
People speculate it must be so much colder in the winter to be living near the lake but I don't think it is so. Living downtown was much colder for me.
I remember the whip of wind between the tall buildings downtown, the bitter slap in the face you'd feel as though each tower were tossing the cold back and forth between one to the other.
After working a later shift at the CN Tower, walking up John Street toward Queen, wondering, might my face and fingers break off before I'd make it somewhere warm? Dramatic thoughts like that would come to mind when passing the little 'watch out for falling ice' signs outside the CBC building. Still, it was fun to huddle with a co-worker friend and eat vendor veggie dogs in soon to be removed phone booths, to feel silly and smart at the same time when we found the non-functioning rotating door to be a reprieve, too.
Waiting for a streetcar at Queen street, a hot chocolate from Second Cup warming my hands through gloves, I watched a man on the other side talking to his dog who labored behind, both of them likely frost-bitten, homeless, surely too late for any shelter that night. He was hurrying his limping dog on with encouragement to keep moving. I hoped to myself that his push-ahead walk meant he knew where he was going, that he knew of some place warm for the night. I wanted peace of mind.
I've lived in Toronto over three years now and I'm still not used to it but I've noticed how much easier it is to say, "no, I don't have any change..." whether it's true or not.
This is a city where, to be cool, you're supposed to act like you don't care that you live here, even though a good many of us came from other places growing up and wanted to relocate to The Big City very much.
/// - adp, November 2011