-12 C. When I open the blinds: sunrise through a fine veil of snow. A neighbor, waiting for her dog, sees me standing at the open window, but she is never friendly and only scowls, turning back to pull the poor animal along the sidewalk. They disappear and I remain, unperturbed, enchanted by the whiteness and the soft filter of snowy air above the more brilliant ground and shiny, packed paths, the straight black trunks and complicated curving branches written across the white page like Persian script, and beyond it all, the golden disk of the sun rising over the river.
We're more than halfway through the Canadian winter. The days are longer now, and yesterday, outside the metro, the maple sugar kiosk had already been set up, even though there's hardly been a day above freezing and no sap could possibly be rising in the trees -- they must be selling last year's candy maple leaves and boiling last year's syrup to make tire d'érable, sugar-on-snow: a romantic treat in time for Valentine's Day. I know better than to get too optimistic. March is inevitably stormy, April tends to be a cold month here, and May is unpredictable. Still, I'll be back on my bike in April, and the city will begin to open up again. Between now and then, it's better to find ways to love it.
In the meditation sessions I lead twice a month, I've been talking about developing a non-dualistic mindset, and opposites are perhaps more on my mind than usual. Cold/warm; winter/summer; light/darkness: I notice the freight carried by each word in the pair, how the scales tip, and also how other pairs, like spring/fall, shift the balance less. Always it's the judgement that's extra, that pushes us into positive or negative territory and emotion: I hate winter, I can't wait for this to end. And yes, the season comes with its difficulties, but I rarely feel more alive than I do during these months, or more entranced by the stark beauty of nature asleep. I stand at the window and merge with the figure walking along the fence in the distance, bent forward against a bitter arctic wind; I watch the Olympians and remember being on skiis on the tops of mountains -- that high-elevation world of krummholtz and rime ice and absolute silence -- and then pushing off: the rush of adrenaline mixing with gravity; edges biting into the snow, now velvety soft, now crunchy with ice; knees and arms somehow knowing what to do.
The days lengthen; the downward slope. I slit open a small package and plant tiny black Greek basil seeds in pots of dry earth that swell when watered, and set them under a plastic cover to grow warm in the sunlight. At the bus-stop I scoop snow into my palms, fashion a ball, and throw it across the street. As it shatters I remember a boy who had a crush on me, and shot his frozen arrows accurately all one winter, right between my shoulder blades.