I hear spring flowers and blossoms are starting to bloom in Victoria, on Canada’s Pacific Ocean, west coast. But everywhere else in this country, known for its long, cold, snowy winters, such a thing is still the stuff of day-dreams. The reality of spring is three months away here in Hope Ness, Ontario, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole; more if spring is late this year like it was last.
Until then the operative word, I’m tempted to say, is survival. But on reflection, that doesn’t seem to do it justice. Let’s say surviving winter is at best a mindful experience that carries with it on a moment to moment, day to day, basis a lot of things to be thankful for: a tractor that starts up every morning; a good snowblower; a couple of dogs that, in their way, tell me it’s time to get up; nearby friends and family who regularly keep in touch; the municipal snow plow and driver who keep the road open. I could fill the page with thankfulness.
Most of all, if I may say, surviving winter mindfully, is about the satisfaction that comes from doing the things that have to be done – and then being able to look back on the day and feel good about it.
Okay, so I didn’t get everything on my daily “to do” list done. I know that wasn’t going to happen. It’s just a guide, something to keep the old memory on track. No problem. “Not the end of the world,” as a dear friend is wont to say.
What I did was done mindfully, because otherwise, the odds against something breaking down or otherwise not going right, are much increased. Sooner or later neglect comes back to haunt you. But come the evening I am content to relax, and that’s important too. There comes a certain age when you should not underestimate what you can do. But neither should you try to do too much. Your body and mind will tell you: and that too is mindful.
So, I look out my kitchen window, and sure enough it’s still snowing and blowing heavy, just as the weather-people forecast it would in two warnings, one for continuing heavy snow squalls, and extreme cold weather with a risk of frostbite. I’m not going to be foolish. Pacing is the order of the day. The tractor/snowblower apparatus has been greased, and the driveway blown out, for the first of two times today. After lunch I may go up on the kitchen addition roof to clear off accumulating snow, yet again, or not. I may leave that to tomorrow.
Just a couple of weeks ago here in Hope Ness, and most of the rest of southwestern Ontario, winter so far had been relatively mild, with little snow. But things have a way of balancing themselves out. The garlic I planted last fall is a lot happier now with a metre of snow-cover.
Some will say this is more like an “old-fashioned winter” now. Maybe so. I’ve been around long enough to judge, and sure, I can remember lots of winter weather like this. But I never until recent years heard talk of the dreaded “polar vortex,” or heard of public officials in Chicago, Illinois warning people about the unprecedented possibility of wind-chill temperatures as low as -50 (Fahrenheit, or Celsius, at that level it’s about the same). That’s cold, trust me. I remember well driving back to Toronto from Edmonton in the mid-winter of 1977-78 through temperature as low as – 45 (actual, not wind-chill) and that was no time to be driving an old Dodge pick-up on its last legs on the Trans-Canada north of Superior. But for some reason, I got through; and in the end I look back on that experience with thankfulness.
I hear the current occupant of the White House has tweeted anti-climate change jokes about the frigid conditions in the U.S. Midwest. He would, of course. He’d rather that, than read up on it, or be briefed and actually listen. Don’t get me started.
But the truth is there is growing scientific evidence that the Polar Vortex phenomenon we’ve been hearing about in recent years is caused by climate change. The fact the arctic region has been warming at a relatively faster rate than other regions much further south has disrupted the equilibrium of high-altitude northern winds, causing the Jet Stream to drop down in those abnormal “nodules,” bringing arctic area much further south as a result. The Arctic is warming faster than other regions, but it’s still darn cold up there in winter.
Yes, I still find time to read up on things that interest me, like global warming; and the state of the world. Yes, even that, though especially precious moments when a hopeful light shines through. It matters, what I do, what you do. Who knows what little miracle may set a great one into motion. Everything, everyone, is connected.
That too is mindfulness.