Sunday, February 14, 2016

Forty Below

One of my favourite kids' books is Robert Munsch's 50 Below Zero, set in the Yukon, about a boy who goes out into the woods to search for his sleep-walking father on a cold winter night. It's silly and beautifully illustrated and captures the real wonder and adventure of going outside in the deep, cold of winter. We've been reading that book, along with some of our other winter favourites (Gruffalo's Child, The Snowy Day, Northern Alphabet) because it has been cold ... really cold! It has been -48C with the wind chill. Otherwise known as the weather in which I wear my feetie pyjamas and don't leave the house unless absolutely necessary.

I like these spells of extreme cold. It feels a little adventurous. I like to pretend we're in our house surviving against the raging, fierce elements outside. We kind of are. It's a little romantic, hunkering down, lighting fires, making forts. And when I do have to go outside (to start the car, get groceries or walk the dog), I wear gear reserved just for days like this: my goose down jacket (bought second-hand from a sled-dog musher), wool and rabbit fur hat, beaver hide and fur mitts, long johns, scarf across my nose. It feels like putting on a costume and, even though I am 30, I pretend I'm an explorer, wandering alone in the barren North, in search of supplies.

As I write this, the kids are watching a movie after paying face paint, and looking outside it appears warm. Sun shining, wind blowing softly. Across the screen of white snow out front, I see my home's shadow, notice the smoke coming from the chimney and dancing off into the sky. The fire crackles and burns beside me; soon everything will smell like campfire. Then I will go make pizza dough for heart-shaped pizzas, to share with my Valentines. A perfectly wonderful day to be kept in by the biting cold.

Part of what makes these cold days so exciting for me is the comfort in knowing I can stay inside and be warm, if I choose. I remember that there are those for whom this frigid cold is a real danger. Those without proper heat or insulation, those without proper homes at all, those without winter jackets, hats or mitts. I am grateful that these cold days don't threaten our comfort or safety, and with that measure of gratitude, I will whole-heartedly enjoy the banana blueberry muffins we baked, leaving the oven open after the heat the kitchen. 

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