Canadian Winter

Winter in Canada. It’s here now, the snow on the ground, and the chill in the air. It was book club this evening, and breakfast with relatives downtown, all of which meant walking across the city in boots. As ever, this time of year, we find ourselves wondering what it is about winter boots that seems to find them without arch support. Or maybe it’s something we do to them. Either way, we’ve been acutely aware of it ever since we took up dancing. Suffice it to say we miss the days of mizzling, Scottish winters. The haar, the rime, and the bleakly grey mornings. At least we could run everywhere in ordinary shoes.

But we’re in Ontario, documenting the creeping start of one if our milder winters. after last year, anything above -20 would feel mild. Still, we have a tradition of magnificent winters, and in the course of nursing tonight’s Nuts and Spices Oolong we’ve stumbled across a poet that felt the need to render them lyrical.

The tea, incidentally, is more spice than nuts. Not surprising, since we’re still fuzzy on how exactly essence of peanut would diffuse into an oolong. We can vouch for the presence of the peanuts though; they’re jolly hard to get into a tea infuser. Muse on the how and why of all that while reading through this description of Ontario winter. It’s nothing like the Scottish Decembers we miss, but it’s spot-on for Canada.

How One Winter Came in the Lake Region

Wilfred Campbell

For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;
The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,
And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,
In those grey, withered days.
Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,
At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;
The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;
The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,
And hushed its caverns loud.
Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,
Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,
Or far in swamps the lizard’s lonesome lute
Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root
The tree-toad trilled his dream.
From day to day still hushed the season’s mood,
The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;
Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,
And all the world, with ominous silence, stood
In weird expectancy:
When one strange night the sun like blood went down,
Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;
Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,
Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,
But never a wind-breath blew.
That night I felt the winter in my veins,
A joyous tremor of the icy glow;
And woke to hear the north’s wild vibrant strains,
While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,
Fast fell the driving snow

In unrelated trivia, Campbell was an Anglican priest before he was a poet of Canadian winter. We’d never heard of him prior to this evening, and we rather wish now we could talk Advent with him over a cup of oolong. This one is particularly good, nuts or no, and we have a feeling he’d speak our particular liturgical language.

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