Here I am skating at the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval in Saskatoon. Which one I am in the picture? (Hint: I am not the speed skater)
I wait all year for this.
Air so cold it stings. Snow squeaking underfoot. The high soaring sound of a deep January night. A crisply etched moon. Solitude. Silence.
Winter is clarity. The senses are sharper. The brain, insulated by a friendly hat, is at its optimal temperature. The world is angular, sketched, bare when it is dry. Precipitation is snow and ice, a magical force, enough to shut down airports, subways and buses. It can bring a city to its knees.
Kids get to stay home from school. The lucky ones get to go outside and play.
I grew up with snow drifts so high they could bury a kid alive. My brother once burrowed six feet deep into a drift, iced the sides, and tossed my little brother in the pit. And left him there, until his muffled cries alerted my parents who called out for him in the ringing cold.
Winter is survival, being conscious of the heart beat and breath. It is quiet streets and white icing. It is the soul's sojourn.
Winter is hockey and Les Habs.
I experienced cold like I haven't had in years, when I travelled to Saskatchewan to meet Dan's family at Christmas. It felt both familiar and foreign, Canadian yet cryogenic. This is the way it used to be. I have been deprived living in Toronto, part of Canada's banana belt. The winters here are positively tropical.
But not this week.
The temperature will not rise above minus 5 for the next six days. I rejoice. That means skating outdoors, skiing where the snow is and wearing a toque 24/7.
The full moon is on January 26. I'll be looking up into the deep, dark galaxy and pining.