I have many favorite memories from my childhood but some of my favorites of all are the times my family went snowmachine-ing into Riding Mountain National Park from where we were stationed at Sugarloaf Station. My dad drove his park issued, double-skied Bombardier in classic plainsman style — standing with one knee up on the seat, the other foot down on the running board to steady his body while his beaver fur hat flapped about in the -30C weather. My sisters, mum and I rode in a sled behind with the dog on our legs to keep us warm. The sled was tarped so we were out of the wind but it didn’t matter, it was still cold. I remember looking out the back of the sled at the blur of the ice season in the spruce and the pale skin of the aspen hanging on to ratty bird nests, everything dull and dark and grey as the frigid sky. I remember the terrible moments when the wind gusted and blowing snow poured into the back of the sled as we rode. I remember the feel of the snow crystals on my face — brusque and prickly. We would get to where we were going and my dad would shut off the snow machine; the sudden quiet of the woods was like a roar in my ears. We’d all crawl out of the sled and we’d poke about in the woods and eventually build a little fire under a lumbering spruce (which you’re never supposed to do) and we’d stay a while.
My mum would unpack a picnic that included a thermos of hot chocolate, cookies, hotdogs for roasting, whole wheat buns for our roasted dogs and ketchup and mustard for the trimmings…sometimes a jar of sauerkraut, too, which I didn’t like until I grew up and my tastebuds settled down a bit.
Ever since those times, I’ve always known there’s nothing so wonderful as stopping in a winterscape to have a hot fire, a snack and a thermos of tea. I’m telling you, it’s the very best and in a world of humans who speak often in wild hyperbole I want you to understand that I mean that statement with all my heart.
A picnic fire in the frigid heart of winter is the very best.
I’m thinking so much lately about my younger years, those developmental times that built a sort of foundation for who I am now as a human, a lady, an outdoorswoman, a full time creative and small business owner. I can tell you I’ve worked hard to be who I am, to develop what is good in me and weed out what is bad in me but my parents also worked hard to bring magic to my childhood whenever they could. My mum strived to fill our lives with culture and a passion for the arts and she worked especially hard to make my sisters and I into cultured little ladies with rich imaginations though we spent so much of our young years in the backwoods of Canada.
I should have grown up to be a feral beastie because my childhood was largely barefoot, weird and wild. But instead, I can tell you the names of classical pieces of music (so many of them I studied for piano), I can speak broken Quebecois style French (though it goes more and more to rust with the passing of years), I can tell you what I believe if you take the time to ask me and listen to me, I can set a beautiful table and throw an elegant dinner party, I can articulate my emotions and my physical pain, I can look out at the natural world and translate the lessons I learn from the land and the critters there so that they mean something to me as a human.
I’m not sure any of that is of value in the real world, but I value it in and of itself but also because my mum valued it. It’s my delight to unfold myself for people who don’t know me well and to reveal, piece by piece, the residual magic of my upbringing — to present those ideas, those pieces of culture and grace and grit paired with my current skill set and simply surprise others.
It is also my delight to see the people I love unfold in a similar manner. Just when I think I know everything about a friend or loved one, just when I think I have a tactile sense of their dimensions, they surprise me with an opinion, with a keen proclamation of faith, with a talent or skill, with a blinding humility or such a deep capacity for grace that I have to entirely rewrite my definition of them in my mind. It’s thrilling. Growing with people, changing alongside them, discovering them and re-discovering them is completely thrilling and the very true root of my notion of relationship.
I can’t remember what I set out to say when I began writing this blog post but I think it’s close to being finished now and sometimes (more often than not) finished is better than good and the fact is, I just need to get back on the blogging wagon…so with that said, may you get to know, even more, the people you love and the people you don’t love, and may you discover that you love the people you know you love even more than you thought you did and may you find yourself loving the people you thought you didn’t love with all your heart…and may you be curious about who they are, who they were, and who they will be…and may your winter fires be warming.