Winter Fire

7I9A7811 7I9A7861 7I9A7864 7I9A7892I 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.
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  1. Nathalie Carles says:

    We just had the most wonderful real Winter here in the very (very) south west part of Canada, real snow, real cold (-12!!) the last time our big lake on our island, St Mary’s Lake, was that frozen was back in 1992!!!! people skated on it for 3 entire days, an entire week-end of pure happiness, someone made a fire for the kids (and for adults too) on the bank the lake, hot dogs, hot chocolate…..nice post and beautiful pictures (as usual) and a very very very happy new year to both of you.

    • Yes! Sounds like a true wintertime get-together to me! We used to slough skate at the farm and at friend’s farms when we were growing up…a lot of times our church in Manitoba had a Christmas party and it always involved skating and a pick-up game of hockey on the dug-out behind the barns…so much fun. I love this season.

  2. Michèle Leblanc says:

    Oh you wonderful soul you;) I really enjoyed reading this one,I absolutely intend to do the same as my daughter grows up, lots of going out into the wilderness just to sit, make a fire, relax and explore what’s around us and I hope it is something she treasures just as much as you do still and keep doing still even when she’s all grown up and moved away;)

    Thank you and bless you sweetheart;)

  3. Yes. The beauty of another both seen and unseen. Lovely.

  4. yes yes yes….to all of it, to loving those i love even more, to loving those who have stepped into and out of my life’s path, to everything you [so beautifully] wrote……

    and yes, as soon as i have the “OK” to hike coyote hill, i’m gonna go up there and build a wee fire and have a small picnic in my hinterland forest.


  5. Yes!
    Love you even more! 🙂

  6. Me Too!!!!

  7. Tricia van Roestel says:

    As a fellow Canadian girl I can attest to the delight of a picnic fire during the cold winter months. I have been reading your blog faithfully for a very long time. I absolutely love all of your work, words and wisdom. In the summer, I was in a bad car accident while travelling with my best friend and 3 dogs. Our two other best friends were following behind us and witnessed the accident and were first on scene. Long story short I often think of a way to describe our 20+ year friendship and what the accident made me realize..just when I thought I couldn’t know more something happened that made me realize I had only skimmed the surface – your words on relationship are exactly how I feel and brought me to tears as soon as I read.. thanks for sharing!! Love, Tricia

  8. Chris Moore says:

    Love this post! When do we get to see pics of your house?


      We had a two week delay due to weather so the hardwood floors just received their final coat a couple days ago and the kitchen finally has counters as of Saturday. Yay!

      We should be moved out of the strawbale house and into the farm by tomorrow evening…but tomorrow morning I am flying out to California for a last minute assignment for Orvis so actually moving INTO the house has been delayed…again…we might be unpacked and living in it by the start of March which is when I will procure some pictures for you. Thanks for asking about it!

  9. Pure, chilly wonderful-ness!!! Thank you for letting us in to your childhood a little bit!

  10. Christina says:

    I love hearing about your childhood. Isn’t grand to have one parent that teaches you the necessities of life and another the finer things?! So important to have that balance. What a fine job your folks did. xo ;-*

  11. Beautiful, as always. MUAH!!!

  12. “Sometimes finished is better than good.” I love this and have passed it onto several folks in my life who struggle over something that just needs to be complete. Thank you for affirming it.

  13. Thank you for your words on so many levels and so many ideas and topics. I was city born and raised but was fortunate to get into the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia often as a child with my father who was a naturalist. My heart is being drawn to a more rural existence in Vermont within the next few years, but part of me holds onto a concern that my future children won’t get the same exposure to culture and diversity that I did in the city. Your words help me realize that it’s not about WHERE you grow up, but rather HOW you grow up. Thank you.

  14. This is really, really beautiful. Thank you so much for writing it and posting it.

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