The small school I teach at has a midwinter break of two weeks. Given the intensity of the level of work both before and after that break, I have learned it’s a good idea to take full advantage of it and try to stop working as much as possible while I have a chance. The best place for me to hide from the world is in Ontario’s near north where there is a family cottage I can use. I determined that I would do everything delightful while I was there. Basically, I have spent this week pretending I am Scandinavian. What does this mean?
Every Day in Nature:
It isn’t hard to achieve this as the place is nestled in the forest and perched on a little lake like the dreamy thing you imagine it to be. I wake up and stare out the window at my tree friend. One time this tree was struck by lightening and given that it’s only about 25 meters away from the building, I thank it for saving the house. I like to gaze at the scar that streaks down it’s trunk, sometimes for almost an hour while drinking coffee. It’s much better than what’s on Instagram, I swear.
After coffee there is dog walk. Sometimes, that is the main event and sometimes, that is the thing I need to do before the main event. We tromp up into the forest where there is a well packed path and I watch her roll down her favourite hills. I rarely capture this one video because it’s way better live.
On this one I fudge a little. Very special humans get to come up here with me sometimes. Fellow blogger, Cate, was able to find a few days between all her running around and deadlifting and hip mobilizing and saving the world in small ways to come be with me here. The other ways I remain social is by text with friends and, while this gets me sucked into my phone sometimes in ways I hate, being totally isolated isn’t good for me. I’m also tracking a kid in Australia so that’s fun. I think talking to your dog about life and future plans totally counts as socializing. I’m not sure about the cat but he’s a good listener when he feels like it.
Embracing The Winter Sports
I was deliberate about this intention this time. I brought my downhill skis and my skates. There are snowshoes here and there is a place to go x-country skiing. I decided I was going to do every winter sport that was reasonably accessible for me while I was here, even if that meant I was doing it myself. I have never gone downhill skiing alone and I wondered what that would feel like for me. It turns out that it’s a good time, good enough that I’d do it again. I’m a rather good skier, which I kind of forgot about and flying around on the hills with only my own choices to contend with was rather liberating. It’s still a much better sport done socially but alone skiing is not bad at all.
Alone snowshoeing is also totally delightful and to be fair, I’m never really alone because, dog. I was rather glad, however, that the episode of snowshoeing that involved following random paths in the woods heretofore unknown to me was not alone, and that Cate had her cellphone and that she was gentle in wondering if we were going the wrong way, and that she doesn’t get mad at me when I insist it’s right and then it isn’t. So, we weren’t exactly lost but it’s a good thing we have grit. That was a lot of wandering around in the forest.
I’m also glad that we chose to skate together. There is a skate trail through the forest only 20 minutes from here that is a little magical. I had grabbed the skates in from the basement that looked like they fit me. I have no idea where they came from or whose they actually are. This, I think, is one of the most Canadian things ever, “Just go down the basement and take a look, there should be a pair that fits.” Unfortunately, that was a poor choice because they were not at all a good fit and I was wobbly and off balance and a little terrified. Cate was in her glory, however, and I persisted. I learned another rule of life, “Let someone else tie your skates for you” and things got a little better. It was a good time but if I had been alone, I would have been sad. Next time, I will just rent the skates, they seem a lot more comfortable, even if other people that I don’t know’s feet have been in them.
Hiking without snowshoes is the other staple activity up here. The shorter hike/dog walk doesn’t require them but it has it’s delights and challenges. The last time Cate and I were here we went on an 8k walk without snowshoes and we were exhausted and sore from all the wobbly walking and balancing. Cate also wore Very Bad Socks that ate her heel (Have you thrown those out yet? Throw them out!).
I chose to x-country ski on a perfect day, sunshine and a high of 4 degrees. I chose an easy trail and classic skis. I sailed along, rhythmic and without strain or stress. I could ramp up the intensity if I wanted to but I didn’t have to and then I recognized the feeling I was having. It was like biking! I have found a winter sport that is the equivalent of road biking! I am seriously considering buying some of my own equipment at the end of the season because I really want to be able to noodle around the lake like the old days. (The x-country boots in the basement are literally turning to dust so I think it’s okay to buy a new pair).
All the Scandinavian countries seem to have their own version of this idea of snuggling up in the dark and the cold. It’s seems like an appropriate cultural evolution. My first night here, it was too cold to sleep in the bedroom so I just drifted off to sleep on the couch by the wood stove. It was the ultimate in cozy. I continue to be intentionally cozy every day here, whether it is snuggling human, dog or reluctant cat.
As I finish up this post, I’m aware of needing to leave this place in a few hours. It has been a joyful gift to be able to spend this week here tromping around and eating well and watching two seasons of Peaky Blinders. I am sad to have to go but content in having done all the things, every one of them. I’m watching the snow fall like fine mist and aware of lengthening days. Perfect winter.