Fever and all that comes with it: A Parent’s Poem

Heat under my palm where cool should be

Sleepy eyes ringed with circles over pale cheeks

Hoarse cough and hoarse voice 

Dry and baking little fingers clasping my own

She asks for water after her medicine.
Not her first time with fever, nor the last

But her colds are rare, often sickness undaunting —

She turned down bouncy castles today

Choosing couch, pillow, blanket, quiet

Not her typical personality.
I count my blessings always that she’s healthy

I watch her drift into sleep with flushed cheeks

I hope and pray it’s just the virus others have had

A temporary shift into discomfort

Try to keep her happy.
But knowing there is only so much

Life goes on and due dates tick closer

Guilt and apologies, letting go her hand

She’s old enough to understand

Not sure which part aches more.

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Attack of the Pollen (unless it’s just another cold). So here’s a bit of a ghost story…

Pounding, twinging, aching sinuses. I’d be 100% certain it’s allergies except my stomach is off too, although that could also be a result of having had that third coffee / second café mocha this afternoon.

I stood in a hot shower for a bit, hoping the steam and my nasal saline would help. Noticed that my shower drain is clogged, probably from rinsing out the cricket container. The drain is full of dead crickets. 

Made me think of a haunted house that I’ve heard students talk about, over on Poplar St. It sits on top of a boulder, an outcropping of Canadian Shield that bulges up and slightly over the road. A few straggly trees have grown up stubbornly between the house and the road, clinging to cracks and fissures with snarling roots.

Teens have broken into the house over the years since it was abandoned. The most popular story they tell is of the dolls: a circle of old, broken dolls positioned on the wooden floor in what used to be the living room. They say that if you leave the room to check out the rest of the empty house, when you go back in to see the creepy dolls again, they’ve moved.

Not sure how I linked dead crickets in my drain with possessed dolls in a haunted house, but there it is. The suggestion of a story, a germ of an idea. Imagine a family buying the structure because it’s all they can afford, planning to fix it up, but every time they move the dolls or throw them away, they come back… Peering out with their dead glass eyes from the bushes by the garbage bins… Lying in a semi-circle around the back door… Every day, pushing a little closer and a little closer, trying to get back to their domain…

And then one day, the mother is consumed with a need to know the truth. She goes to pick up the plastic baby doll, creased with dirt in its joints and dimples, but as soon as her fingers close around its fake pudgy belly, a hoard of insects pours out of the crack under its smiling mouth: brown crickets, black spiders, white millipedes, red ants…

Not sure how the story might end. It’s a mystery.

A Cold Day, and a Concert

So it turned out that it was indeed too cold for buses to run this morning, and the elementary schools had to postpone or cancel (hopefully the former) their Valentine’s Day classroom parties. My daughter wasn’t terribly upset by this, although I know some little ones were in tears. I spent a largely productive day doing marking and working on various tasks for different projects. I didn’t get anything completed, but I made progress in little bits here and there, so that’s something.

At the end of the day, I was offered two free tickets to go to the Alyssa Reid concert here in town, so on the spur of the moment, I said yes. My first instinct was actually to politely decline in anticipation of my usual Friday night appointment with the couch, but I thought about how the nine-year-old had likely been a couch-potato all day herself, and she needed to get out and exercise. It’s been far too cold these last few days for much outdoor play, but at least at a concert, she could move.

Therefore, we went, and move she did! She spun, hopped, skipped, danced, kicked, and had a generally awesome time.

My ears are ringing a little now, and while I surprised myself and disappointed us both a bit by leaving early instead of waiting in the horde of fangirls to get autographs, it was a good move, I think. She has skating first thing in the morning, and it has been a long day for me, mainly of staring at papers behind a desk. It still amazes me how exhausting that can be.

I wish I had the energy to write a poem tonight, do something creative and fun, but I’m wiped.

One thing I’ve been wanting to comment on, though, is the peculiar beauty of the deep-winter streets in our town. We’re in a point of balance right now, where there has been just enough grading and freezing to make most of the road surfaces smooth. When there are thaws, we get chewed up slushy spots and potholes in the snow, making some roads downright treacherous to suspension systems and tires, but there have been so few of those that the streets are fairly packed down and rather aesthetically pleasing. Like frozen rivers between shrunken snowcapped mountains. It means taking extra care with driving, too, because those surfaces are just as slick as a frozen river would be. Even driving slowly doesn’t take away from the need to know defensive driving techniques. But as much as the bitter cold is starting to wear down our patience and energy, I’m still seeing beauty in it, or making the effort to at any rate. Soon enough the temperatures will warm and those damned potholes will emerge, as will scatterings of poopsicles along sidewalks and curbs and yards. Spring will be wonderful for the opportunity to start shedding layers, and frustrating in its dirtiness.

But then again, if spring is when life comes back, that suits the mud and the mess, doesn’t it? Creation is a messy process, after all.

I shouldn’t be getting too ahead of myself. We still have at least four weeks to go before we’ll see any sign of melting, and two of those will continue to be the Deep Freeze.

Hot Writing in Canadian Winters

The holly jolly Christmas songs and festive hubbub have died away. If that was the heart of the season, we’re now in the belly of the beast being slowly digested in its freezing juices.

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Winter isn’t that cold across our whole country, though we certainly give that impression. British Columbia has beautifully balmy weather on its coastal plane and in its rainforest, and southern Ontario generally has mild winters with a few harsh storms. But where I live, in Northeastern Ontario, we generally have at least two weeks of frigid cold in which temperatures dip to -40 (or lower, with the wind chill) and pipes can freeze while ice fog forms over the streets in the night. The snow falls and falls throughout the winter months, up to three feet deep or sometimes more, so many people have to put tiny roofs over their furnace exhaust pipes to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. That nearly happened to us, once, during a blizzard that was so heavy the fire truck responding to our call for help couldn’t get up the unploughed street. The snow piles were higher than our car, that year, (our first living in this region), and we learned the wisdom of
a) shovelling well away from the vehicle so the piles do not gradually close in on the drivable space, and
b) hiring a snow plough or investing in a snow blower, neither of which we’ve done until this year.

Our first winter in Northeastern Ontario, 2002

Our first winter in Northeastern Ontario, 2002

I keep contemplating buying USB warming / heated fingerless gloves, for typing, but I keep putting it off because I’m not 100% convinced they’d be worth the money. And a good cup of tea will warm my fingers when it’s chilly in here, or I can put them under the laptop where the heat is fine.

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Writing in the winter is cathartic, escapism, and makes hiding from the harsh weather easier. Wrapped in my blanket on my couch, I can disappear into an imaginary world (when my children let me), pausing now and again to wipe my cold, wet nose and get a fresh cup of hot brew or a glass of wine, lately (decadence!). I light a candle or two, maybe some scented melting wax thingies, and try to lose myself in the story.

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The trouble with winter writing in this climate and latitude is in the dark time, between Samhain (Hallowe’en) and Imbolc (Groundhog’s Day), I find my days and nights getting more and more mixed up. The hours of darkness are so much longer than those of light, especially on dim cloudy days, that it’s easier to work after the sun has gone down and I lose track of the hours I ought to be keeping. After all, the sun doesn’t fully come up until 8 am on the Solstice, and it won’t be until February that we’ll see dawn by 7:30.

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So much darkness . . . perfect for heated romance, sizzling scenes, and spicy dialogue. Seriously, this is a good season for writing about love. Think log cabins, crackling fires, quilts big enough to cover two bodies, and romantic walks under sparkling velvety black skies or through swirling flecks of lacy snow. Cabin fever gets released by skiing, sledding, snowshoeing — or other less chilly activities indoors. Oh, heck, I’ve read some pretty steamy love scenes that take place in the snowy forest involving opened jackets, though I haven’t yet written any myself. Winter is a season for writing about love, that glorious hot mess that keeps us going when the wind is howling to freeze our bones and shred our skin with its icy nails. The furnace working to pump heated air in my home is the breath of life in a world that is crystallized and unmoving.

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Canadians make good lovers, I think, because we know the best ways to keep warm in the long, cold winter. In a nation of extremes, we have to know how to survive, after all. Summers are as brutal as the winters, but at least in winter warming up is easier than cooling down in a heat wave. Until your pipes freeze or your furnace breaks, that is . . . as has been happening in spades in the houses around me.

Edits are nearly done on Blood and Fire: Book Two of the Talbot Trilogy, and the cover is nearly ready to reveal. Will tonight be another long session of creating with words? As long as my hands are warm enough, I think it will . . . but tea only as, I am out of wine.

Three Days after Solstice

Even though I didn’t celebrate Yule the way I wanted and had envisioned, I still enjoyed the moment as it passed.

I have a clear memory of a conversation I had with my mother, though whether I was 11 or 12 at the time isn’t certain. What I do remember is telling her that when I became an adult, I would be celebrating Christmas as an expression of joy in winter: that I would be rejoicing in the change of seasons, in the beauty of winter, because that was the value I saw in the holiday.

I still see that.

And that is what I have been doing. I’ve been listening to traditional Christmas carols — the songs about sleigh rides, snow, evergreens, mistletoe. None of the winter elements of the holiday have much to do with the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem. But they have everything to do with Saturnalia, with Yule, with the time of the year when Persephone has descended to the underworld and life sleeps. When the snow comes, and the days shorten, we have two choices, as I see it: we can run away and hide from it, OR we can embrace it.

This year, I have chosen to embrace the cold. I’m doing much better at taking my children outside to play and slide and make snow angels. I’m lighting candles, and enjoying the peace of the dark nights. I’m taking my dog for walks in the winter night, admiring the lights on neighbourhood houses.

All of the colour, the glowing, the giving and receiving of gifts — it speaks to me of balance. When the world grows dark and cold, we join together (whenever we can) to reflect on our blessings and share our abundance, so everyone has enough to get through. There is so much symbolism in gift-giving, in the plump energy of Santa Claus. We party, and feast, and decorate, keeping our spirits going.

So, as a Pagan and a Wiccan, and a witch, this season has a lot of meaning for me. It goes deeper than the label. I may not have done the ritual I wanted to perform for Yule, but already, three days later, I can feel how the wheel of life has turned. It’s an intangible sensation in the air, in the body, in the sunshine. We’ve passed the test of the dark and the sunlight is slowly returning. When my children and my husband open their gifts tomorrow morning, and I receive their tokens of love, we’ll be completing our own ritual, celebrating our beliefs in each other, and in the potential of humanity to overcome all that is cold, dead, and wrong in the world.

On the practical side, until then, I will be cleaning and getting the children to help me with that, until their father comes home and our fun activities can begin.

I hope that, whatever you believe, you are with family and friends this week, or next. That you are safe, happy, healthy, have enough to eat, clean water, warmth, and love with you.

BB