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#WordlessWednesday 12

Bjork circa 2001

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Winter Wonder

Trees, Version 2 - 2

It scarcely seems possible to me that the Christmas and New Year’s festivities are behind us already; trees taken down, decorations safely stored away and the strings of outdoor lights no longer illuminated each night. Yet it feels to me like Advent began a mere fortnight ago, a sure sign my Yuletide flew by in a flurry of activities, visits, meals and merriment.

The Christmas spirit arrived early for me this year with the iciest December cold snap I can remember, and the prettiest, glittery, pure white snow on the ground. The unrelenting cold ensured there was no melting; slush makes the snow turn a horrible, dirty, depressing grey that does not glitter and absolutely does not feel festive! I’m glad we had the deep freeze in December but, I don’t know about you, it seemed to me that our winter arrived very early and suddenly; one week the forest floor was covered in dry, crunchy, kickable leaves and….

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….the next week, all that pleasure was buried under our first snow fall.

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“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.
You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different,
and if this is not enchantment, where is it to be found?”
[JB Priestley]

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I love winter because enchantment is always exactly what I feel when we’re in the throes of seasonal frost and snow. True that I complain about being cold but in truth, when the humidity of summer oppresses me, I find myself longing for this feeling – Priestley’s enchantment – the wonder that accompanies the arrival of frozen, snowy, blizzardy days. To thoroughly enjoy all of winter’s pleasures, I intentionally slow down, mindfully experience the wonder of it all, and store up new precious, frosty memories.

I couldn’t possibly choose just one good thing about winter – there are far too many – but here are some of my favourite things…

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I love a cold front that brings with it those tingly, icy gusts, making the snow squeak as I walk my favourite paths at Presqu’ile Those bitterly cold blasts of arctic air that contrive to smell like winter create the most perfect kind of weather you could ask for.

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Psithurism always inspires wonder; that dreamy sound of wind soughing through the trees on a blustery day, making the trees swoosh and sway, sounding for all the world, like the ocean’s waves.

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Wonder also is waking up to a blizzard. This is one of my absolute favourite types of days; very few meteorological events are quite as compelling, making me oh-so-grateful to be warm. cosy and comfortable at home. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that feeling could be bottled and shared? Enchantment often envelops me on such blustery days, when we’re as snug as two bugs in a rug, sipping afternoon tea ’round the fire.

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That too! A twinkling fire, with flames flickering and dancing behind the glass, never fails to set an almost magical mood of wonder in the winter months. In the warmth, I can indulge myself with a happy anticipation that any moment, more snow may begin to fall. On those days I often find myself daydreaming of the evening when we’ll snuggle around the fire, each of us with a good book.

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Winter is the absolute best time for stargazing and where we live, far from the city’s bright lights, our winter nights fair glitter with a spectacular array of the brightest, most beautiful and wonderful displays the heavens have to offer. Even if I don’t want to venture out, on clear, cold nights it’s quite dreamy to open the shutters and stare up at the sky and imagine all the other curious folk doing the very same thing at that exact moment.

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One last winter favourite: Candles. Really, does any object feel more homey, welcoming, warm and restful than a flickering candle? True that candles can be burned year-round, but I think they are robbed of the elements of enchantment and wonder when it is warm and light outside. Winter is definitely my favourite time for candlelight.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

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New Year – New Intentions

Alexandra Snowden 1
[Alexandra Snowden]

Happy New Year 2018 to all my dear readers. Once again it has been a long while since I have posted. A wicked virus took hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. Not the Christmas and New Year I’d envisioned for us, not by a long shot. I really oughtn’t be complaining; the absolute best thing about 2017 is that (current ailment notwithstanding) both Cam and I had a splendid year, health-wise. Nothing can possibly beat that!

The silver lining of this ordered rest and confinement was reflection; the chance to think back over the past twelve months, to scrutinize the things I did that I’m proud of, and especially the things I wish I’d done better.  Were there opportunities missed and chances not taken? Yes, always! With so many idle hours I also had plenty of time to consider my New Years’ Resolutions…

I’ve always loved the notion that once a year I can do some hard drive maintenance; clear my cache and reboot my system. I thoroughly enjoy the process of deciding on a resolution or two, articulating them and recording them in my journals. Although I love the concept, I’ve never liked the word “resolution” which conjures images of board rooms and committee meetings. It is a very personal undertaking for me, which is why I think of my resolutions more as intentions. Goals that I set down on paper each year after much joyful contemplation and anticipation. Every year I hope and pray that I am strong enough, committed enough, and motivated enough to live them throughout the year.

Last year’s resolution – the Minimalist Challenge – a project that many of my friends painfully witnessed through a series of facebook posts, was in fact, life-changing.  The results of that resolution for me, for Cam and for our home were staggeringly positive. More so than I’d imagined. Keeping steadfast with our commitment to that philosophy has been both empowering and uplifting.  A tough act to follow for 2018!

This year I asked myself: What can I do to make life better – for me, for my family, for my friends, for my community, and for the world? The same three things popped into my mind over and over again. Inescapable, for some reason. They became my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, recorded in my journal. Intentions set:

#1:  Kindness

The Dalai Lama once said:  “Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”  Kindness is the virtue I value most in others, so I must better-model such behaviour in my own life.  This is one of the things I wish I’d done better this year.  My first intention, then, is to reflect more before speaking and acting so that my words and deeds are rooted in kindness.  Always.

#2:  Health

The severe health deficits faced by so many of our friends and relatives this year have made me acutely aware that without our health, we have nothing.  I am grateful that 2017 was a very good year, health-wise, for Cam and I but I know that there is room for improvement in my habits – both eating and exercising.  My second intention, then, is to make better dietary and fitness choices every day.

#3:  Compassion

The reading I have done in the past year – books, blogs, newspapers, etc. – forced me to face the fact that I have an abundance.  An abundance of all things that matter – food, water, health care, love, shelter, friends, etc.  And more, that there is no real danger of that abundance waning.  Yet all around me, in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, North America and elsewhere in the world – especially elsewhere in the world – people awake every morning with nothing, through no fault of their own.  Being born to loving, devoted parents, in a wealthy, developed western country is not my right, not my due, it simply means that I won the genetic lottery. With privilege, with profuse ampleness comes the obligation to share my plenty with others.  My third intention, then, is to do something good for others at least once each week.  Something tangible – time, food, money or whatever is most-needed.

Strength.  Commitment. Motivation.

My New Year’s wishes for you, my friends, are that you enjoy good heath throughout the year, that your heart and home are always peaceful; that in our fast-paced world you are able to simplify, slow down, experience stillness and quiet so that you may recognize and savour each little joy, each special moment, that happens in your life – in real time.

‘Til next time, y’all…

Alexandra Snowden 2
[Alexandra Snowden]

Brighton’s First-Class Train Day

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Tuesday (last week) began sublimely, a perfection that lasted throughout the day. ‘Tuesday’ traces back to the old English, Norse and Germanic languages, is derived from the name of the God Tîwaz and ultimately means “to shine”. And shine it did; I simply cannot remember having more picture perfect, delightfully temperate autumn weather this late in the year. 28th November 2017, you were a rock star!

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One of my 100 Photos/100 Days assignments was to capture the Canada 150 train and, as luck would have it, the CP Holiday Train was towing “The Spirit of Tomorrow” – VIA’s 150 celebration car. This year, the closest stop to us was in Brighton so I set off early, complete with food bank donations, cameras, lenses and trusty tripod, all the while thinking to myself I feel like a mule.

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Oh, Brighton, you’re truly amazing! There were volunteers galore; happily spreading holiday cheer by helping carry and stow away all the food bank donations and handing out Holiday Train flags, lapel pins and glow sticks – generally making everyone feel welcome and happy. The area adjacent to the tracks had been roped off and it quickly filled up with a lovely mix of adults, kiddos and pups. The exuberance, excitement and anticipation the children were feeling was palpable and contagious. The CP Holiday train is not new to us here in Northumberland County but, very clearly, our enthusiasm has not dimmed one iota.

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The cheering, clapping, hootin’ and hollerin’ began long before the train actually reached the crowd, nearly (but not quite) drowning out the carols pealing from its sound system. They’re efficient, this CP crew; literally within a couple of minutes of its arrival, the stage was open and the concert – featuring Colin James and Emma-Lee – had begun. We N’umberlanders know how to have a big time, even our dogs. One family had its Basset Hound in tow – she was a beautiful young lady – but as soon as Emma-Lee began singing, so did the hound, much to the owner’s chagrin and the crowd’s amusement.

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Besides the great pile of food bank donations contributed by the crowd, the Holiday Train staff gave the town a $4,000 donation for the local food bank. Having fun whilst helping others – what could be nicer? 28th November truly was a special day – you know the ones – where you feel the contentment of the day’s experiences deep within your soul, memories you just know will last a lifetime. Life really is very sweet, non?

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Reading this post, it will have been apparent that I’ve fallen behind in posting my finished pieces. I apologize to all my dear readers.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

FLAP Reunion

Frances + Laura +Anne + Pam = FLAP

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It’s aways a sweet treat to reunite with old friends, non?

On Monday, my three closest friends from university and basketball came to town for lunch and the nicest of visits at the Buttermilk Cafe. It is years – three, perhaps – since we’ve all been together but no matter how long between visits, it always feels like it was yesterday. Love these women! Remembering the girls I met so long ago, and being with the beautiful women they’ve become today was very special indeed.

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Annie’s birthday celebration. McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, ON.

As the lunch hour approached, there was a modicum of nervousness on my part, I’m not going to lie about that. These three women are all so crazy-successful, well-travelled, smart and funny and I am none of those things. All for nought, as it happens; we picked up right where we last left off, got caught up on each other’s lives, did a whole lot of reminiscing, and even more laughing. It was the best feeling in the world to reconnect with these dear folks and to realize there’s no where else I’d rather have been!

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Still Kleinburg, um, after the wine…

It was especially nice chatting; we don’t do it nearly often enough! Even though I know it’s only to be expected, I hate the way our busy lives keep us apart for so long. They know everything about me which makes me feel comfortable with them – that easy-going comfort, unbutton-my-pants-at-the-table comfort. I wish I was more articulate so I could explain just how special is the relationship we share and how very grateful I am, that they are part of my life.

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Reading week ski break. Dampf family cottage.

Remembering our youthful exploits, I was nostalgic for eighteen-year-old me; it was an optimistic, joyful time when everything felt possible, life was like a shiny new toy and we were all innocent. It made me want us to shoot hoops again, go cross-country skiing at Mr. Dampf’s cottage again, go swimming again, eat Chips Ahoy cookies from Mrs. Renaud’s freezer again, make popcorn in Mrs Renouf’s kitchen again and have one more pub night. It feels oh-so-good to have such fondness for those days.

Monday evening, mulling our visit over and over again in my mind, I felt so thankful. Thankful and joyful. For four friends whose relationship is as strong today as it was forty years ago when our foursome began at UTSC!

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Frances, Anne (L-R, back) Laura, Pam (L-R, front) Monday, 4th December 2017

It’s aways a sweet treat to reunite with old friends, non?

‘Til next time, y’all…