Photo: Birds Calgary
Mother Nature has been kind to the inhabitants of our small part of the planet this winter. She placed us all at the centre of this virus storm, probably in an act of rebellion for the disrespect we have shown the planet. But now she she seems to be relenting by offering us a winter of inestimable beauty.
There is snow – lots of it – for skiing, sledding, show shoeing or just walking. The scenery is a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen stunning photos of wintry landscapes, a magnificent snowy owl, and horses gleefully cantering in the snow, leaving a trail of powdery snow dust behind them.
Recently we went snow shoeing at a nature park. The trail was a pristine carpet of white, bordered by dark-green fir trees on either side, as if a giant garland was wrapped around it. As we walked, I spotted a pileated woodpecker up ahead. (This might make me sound smart, but I knew the bird by its simpler French name, “Grand Pic”. “Grand” means big in French because this species is much larger than others in the woodpecker family. I had to look up the English translation.)
The woodpecker had latched onto the trunk of one of the trees, his scarlet-red crest adding a splash of bright colour to the scenery. His beak hammered repeatedly at the trunk, the sound echoing in the silence of the forest.
Ben was behind me and I signaled him to stop so we could watch from a distance without scaring him away. After a few minutes, we inched forward until we were facing him. Slowly, Ben took out his cell phone and took a few steps off the trail and into the deep snow closer to the tree. The bird wasn’t at all daunted. He accepted our presence as if we were other woodland friends like Bambi or Thumper. Ben snapped a few pictures which did not do justice to the handsome fellow and then we moved on, leaving him to continue foraging for his dinner.
The moment reminded us that we are privileged to share this planet with such beautiful creatures. Maybe that was Mother Nature’s plan all along.
Maybe it’s the curfew imposed on Quebec yesterday that has me pondering again on the pandemic. This time it’s the pangs of loss that wash over me for the most unexpected – and sometimes silly – reasons that are making me sit up and take notice. I’m talking about the little background things we take so much for granted that we only realize the colour they add to our lives when they’re gone.
Ben is grateful that football and other live sports are back on the air. I’m not a die-hard sports fan but I watch the occasional hockey game and I never miss the Super Bowl (or at least I hang in there until the half-time show). But I get a lump in my throat when I see games being played against a landscape of row upon row of empty stadium seats. Isn’t that silly? I miss the crowds in the stands wearing caps or holding cheesy rubber hands with their team logos. I miss the cheers – and the boos. I even miss the pan to the Jumbotron with goofy fans hamming it up for the camera. Some day we will get back to full stadiums.
We’re all looking forward to the day we can hold on tightly to our loved ones for as long as we want. But what about hugs from people who, whether they know you well or are just a passing acquaintance, greet you with open arms? As an introvert who reserves hugs to those in my close circle, I always found this uncomfortable.
I could feel my apprehension rise and my insides get twisted in knots when someone closed in on me, arms wide open for a hug. For a brief moment, my impulse was to back away but then reason prevailed and I surrendered. Now I wonder whether this ingrained reaction will have changed when we finally do get back to normal. Because someday we will get back to hugs, both welcome and less welcome.
Right now, I see this as the infamous darkest hour before dawn. In my mind, at least, that means dawn is just a figurative hour away. When the second-hand ticks past the 60th second in this dark hour, the virus, quarantine and curfews will be a thing of the past. Then the sky’s the limit when it comes to how many ways we can appreciate both the big and little things in life.
Written for Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot It January for Day 10 – cheese and Day 9: the sky’s the limit) and Day 8: twisted.
Dear Summer of 2020,
Thank you for popping back in! They say it will be 27 degrees celsius today, and will feel like 33. Even better, this gorgeous weather is on a weekend, when many of us can enjoy it! I won’t lie and say you are the only summer we are sad to see go. But it’s safe to say you will be missed more than most.
You graced us with such fabulous weather in our neck of the woods that it helped to make up for the strange times we are living in. You were our escape, our key to freedom and road to good times with friends and family. Thanks to you, we could have meals outside and stay a safe 6 feet away from each other. We could sit well into the darkness and enjoy the moon, the stars, the sound of crickets and laughter and conversation with our loved ones. It’s too bad you couldn’t take COVID with you because now that you’re leaving, it’s rearing its ugly head again. The number of infected people is rising every day and, without you, it’s so much harder.
Darkness comes much earlier and with it, a chill in the air that makes it unpleasant to sit outside. Except for the odd, exceptionally warm day, like today, eating outside isn’t the same either. That means we have to spend more time inside and less time with friends and family. Worse, measures are tightening again. We are being asked not to have family dinners to celebrate Thanksgiving so we can stop the virus in its tracks and – if we’re lucky – be together at Christmas. If we’re not successful, we can expect harsher measures to darken the already monochromatic-gray days of autumn.
But for today, you are here and we will enjoy your brief return. Please pop back in any time you like and tell Summer of 2021 that it can come as early as it likes too.