Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Just back in the city after a wonderfully renewing thirty-six hours up north in Grey County. Friends were having a post-Christmas drop-in party yesterday, the weather looked clear (an unusual bonus at this time of year in Grey County), and I had people I wanted to see, so I headed out yesterday morning in the little red Honda Fit. I had cross country skis with me, a jacket and vest, wind pants, a fur coat, ski gloves and a hat, and other oddments of clothing, and well as presents for various people, and a bottle of wine.

There were some patches of wind-swept snow white-out as I drove up, but the roads were dry and I got to my first stop in Markdale easily by noon. My wonderful aunt, youngest of my father's four sisters, is now 82, a young, light on her feet 82. One of her older sisters died two weeks ago, the first of the four to go, and it's a hard thing to loose a sister, whatever your age, whatever hers. Still, there's a resilience that comes with age, and my aunt is plenty strong, good-humoured, and resilent. She's sharp as a tack and a treat to talk to. We gossiped and sipped soup, and then it was time for me to move on.

Next stop was friends north of Markdale who have a second home in a log house on a farm with beautiful woods, pine plantations and hardwood forests, and several ponds and swamps. It's especially spectacular in winter. We went out for a cross country ski, the snow perfect and fluffy with firm snow underneath. Part of the time we were following an already-broken trail, part of the time cutting across an open swamp or breaking trail through the woods. it was as if we were moving through a succession of marvelous rooms in a spectacular outdoor castle or mansion. Each vista was more lovely than the last. There was a plantation of straight-trunked pines, each patched with blobs of white snow, white on reddish brown trunks, lined up in hallucinatorily regular rows. One row was more widely spaced, and down it went a single line of ski tracks, an invitation to disappear into a linear fantasy, is how it felt.

The sun was sinking early, low on the southern horizon, as speckled clouds made sky patterns and the snow became gilded with a soft pink-yellow. It was only 4.30, but at this time of year, that's late in the day. Three of us slid stride by stride abreast across an untracked pond, into the fading warm light. What a magic time. Today my thighs remind me that it wasn't magic but muscle power that carried me through that snowy landscape!

And finally from there I headed west toward the party. The sky was a conflagration of pink-orange threaded with horizontal bands of deep blue-grey. Mesmerizing. But in less than fifteen minutes it had faded to pearl-grey, like a dowsed bonfire, not a spark left. I parked out on the road, then walked up a snowy lane to the party, where friends and a hot wood stove and food and drink and music blended into a sense of welcome and ease.

Later I drove back towards the city through the dark night. I stopped in at friends' whose house is always open and always generous. Lucky traveller, to be sheltered for the night with friendship.

Now I'm back home in Toronto, people from out of town have come by unexpectedly, and tomorrow I'll meet them at Ideal coffee and walk with them through Kensington Market, probably ending with a north Chinese meal at Asian Legend. After that it will be time to clear the rugs and make some food so that we can dance our way through the evening on the 30th with friends of all ages.

Next question: What food shall we make for the party? inari sushi perhaps, and sticky rice too (carbs give good energy for dancing), some cheese to go with Evelyn's Crackers made by Dawn and Ed, and nam prik num, and maybe a chicken salad Viet- or Thai-style...

AND A NOTE ABOUT A NEW BOOK: A few weeks ago I finished reading the latest book by Ma Thanegi, a remarkable woman, a witty and engaged writer who lives in Rangoon/Yangon. It's now available on amazon.com and it's called: Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy: One Woman's Mid-Life Travel Adventures on Myanmar's Great River by Ma Thanegi, published by Things Asian Press.

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