Thursday, 23 January 2014

Why would Anybody live here?

It is the absolute dead of winter.  My skin is cracking all over my hands, I have five layers of clothes on, and I am hearing every day about the infamous polar vortex and rolling my eyes because it sounds so sensational, even if it is as good an effort as any to name the phenomenon.

The pigs have been out in spite of it, and they wander slowly around the icy, snowy yard on their cloven hooves.  It looks like they are walking on stilettos, their big bulky bodies and ugly faces carried with a strange grace.  They eat, they wander out, excrete, dig, go back to bed in the piles of straw they so carefully arrange before plopping themselves down.  It was -30 last night and still they got up after a long cold night, shook in their whip-like way and begged to be fed.

The night of the Screen Guild awards, I happened to catch a few minutes (or a few hours) of the show.  All of the biggest film people gathered in a banquet for an evening of endless pomp.  What happens when the evening winds down?  Do they all head to the doors and stand around, each waiting until his or her chauffeur has finally made it to the pick-up spot, and do they have to grab a jacket at the coat check on their way out?  These questions hounded me, especially the latter, and I finally looked up the weather in L.A.  The highs that week ranged from the mid to high 20s and the lows were around 12 (Celsius that is).

If only the pipelines could carry warmth instead of oil.  Having been to L.A., I know that it is no more inhabitable than eastern Ontario, only for different reasons - it's a sprawling car haven beyond GTA standards and the extremes of glitz and poverty make it unsettling. But if I were given the chance to be one of the directors or writers or actors at the guild awards, walking out into a night thirty degrees warmer than the warmest point of my day today, I would give it serious consideration.

I have to remember to take off my jogging pants when I come in from doing chores, because the pigs come up to me and stamp their noses to the fleece.  Within seconds I am marked all over with dirt and food residue.  When the pigs' pen flooded during the melt earlier this month, we promptly moved them to a drier stall and drained the sludge.  My boots got dipped a bit further than I'd hoped and sure enough, my socks were damp when I got back to the house.  Eventually, we would like to breed animals, sheep or goats most likely, and it means more time around beasts.  Every now and then, in a hardware store or a feed shop, I find myself standing in line behind a guy in overalls who smells a bit like a cow and I know I am a long way from Hollywood.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Ice Fields

Ice storm are new to me. I never experienced anything like it growing up in the west, and the two winters I spent in Toronto were unimaginably mild - rainy but not freezing-rainy. What is most frustrating about these storms, at least when they haven't knocked out power or done major damage to house, car or body, is how sedentary they make a person. It's not pleasant being surrounded by nothing but slippery surfaces for miles on end. When you do venture out, especially in uncleared rural places, you walk in a slow Mike Duffy fashion, not briskly and upright. The ground becomes unfriendly, a rib-breaking menace.

I asked around in my community to see if anyone knew of anywhere that pickup hockey was played. With all of the lakes around, I thought surely someone had been clearing off the ice and taking advantage of a free rink. But it seems that out here, it's snowmobiling or hunting that occupies free time. Pond hockey is quaint, something hip city people might do in a post-ironic way. I thought about smashing the ax into the creek behind my house to see if it would hold, but then I decided to spare myself the long slow shuffle down to the property line. I laced up my skates and cautiously set out on the rolling surface of the hay fields instead.

I suspected that it would be too coarse and full of weak spots, so I snowplowed along, knees tight, but it was almost as gentle as the leveled, zambonied surfaces of public recreation facilities and just as solid. I skated across the field, skipping over the lines and swerving past the snowy patches, marveling at the fact that this was possible. It felt like a strange dream, from which you wake up and think, “that would be great, if only the physical world could accommodate it”. I wandered and found patches that were especially clear, and I circled for a while before moving on. Toward the tree line I hovered for a while on a long, slightly sloped stretch, rushing up and then gliding down. By then the afternoon sun had broken through the cloud cover and was glaring up from the fields. Now it was exhilarating and pretty.

Eventually blisters and sore ankles got the better of me and I packed it in. The next day it warmed up and began to melt, and soon we will have a sloppy mess. It's probably for the best.