I Was Going to Write…

I was going to write about the woes of March. I was going to call her a lyin’, cheatin’, bad friend full of broken promises. I was gathering sad pictures to prove my point.

Our sad woodpile with only one row left.
Our very sad, muddy road full of potholes.

But then something shifted. I had written earlier that our love or hate for winter was a question of attitude. If that was true, and transferable to other seasons, my loathing of March and April might be in need of a serious attitude adjustment.

My body tenses just thinking about March and April. My mind is wanting to embrace the beautiful idea of spring but my body memory tells me of cold, northerly winds, fast  moving weather systems  that dump 30+ centimetres of wet snow overnight, and interminably grey skies. We don’t have spring in southern Quebec, we have winter’s slow and painful exit.

Buddhists would say I have set myself up for stress and suffering – one part of me desiring an early spring  and the other part resisting what is present.  And they would be right. Since I’m on the path to ending suffering, there seems to be work to do here.

The first order of business is changing my thinking about spring’s arrival. If I no longer believe that spring arrives here on March 21st,  I can’t be disappointed when she doesn’t show up. So, I’m officially moving the start of spring to April 21st. This is much more realistic and a very good first start in my attitude adjustment.

Now that I’m not expecting spring until the end of April, I can move into acceptance.  I anticipate there’ll  be some exquisite days when the sap runs in the trees and our bodies will feel a joy that only people who have wintered here can really know.


On those days, I’ll be outside breathing it all in.

It’s the other days that might be more of a challenge.  Facing challenges reminds me of a story that Fred Rogers, the creator of the children’s program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, used to tell. He said that when he was a boy and would see scary things, his mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I’m wondering if a similar strategy could work in facing the challenge of a winter that never seems to end. We could seek out the helpers:

  1. Visit a local maple syrup producer and breathe in the sweet aroma of boiling sap. Have a sip of fresh maple syrup or eat some sugar on snow while we’re there.
  2. Listen and watch for the returning birds.
  3. Invite friends for dinner or meet them at a local pub or eatery.
  4. Add lighter foods to our diet – more vegetables, less carbs.
  5. Buy some tulips to add a little colour and to remember that spring has arrived in other places.
  6. Look for the beauty in the changing light, the sun’s last rays, the moon rising…


Life Calls

I haven’t been getting up early to write since my mother became sick and passed away. It didn’t feel right to be back to “normal” when nothing at all felt very normal.  I took care of things that had to be taken care of and I started cooking again, but there was a real reluctance to take up life as before.

That’s why looking out at the post dawn view from my writing place this morning is all the more special.  I’m being called back it seems. It happened slowly. I went for a first walk, looked up at the trees, and remembered being part of something far greater than myself. I knew I had to be outside again. And that’s how skiing has become the great healer for me.

It has helped that it has snowed almost non stop for the last week or so and conditions are just perfect on the network of trails that zig zag through the woods behind our house and beyond.


A neighbour who owns a massive tract of land has been busy clearing trails and building bridges for the last year or so. The network of trails is so extensive that I feel giddy with excitement at the prospect of exploring a new section each day. The trails are all marked with different colours of  surveyors tape.

This is the pink trail that runs closest to the back of our house.

It becomes really interesting at the places where the trails meet.


I don’t know much for certain these days, but I do know that movement and being in nature is the great healer for me. So every day I’ve been clicking my boots into the bindings and heading outside. It feels right.




Ticks, Lyme, and Long Walks


Here in the country the woods are our backyards and tall grass abounds. We have a woodland path that connects our house to our neighbours,  a ten minute walk away. When the children were little we used this path many, many times a day. Summers are steamy here, so we wore shorts and t-shirts and had flip flops on our feet. Forward twenty years and nothing still brings quite as much pleasure as escaping the heat of the day in the canopy of the forest.

When I walk in the other direction to our rural mailbox, I often cut through our field on the way home, thinking little of the detour and often stopping to see what’s growing or living in the tall grasses.


The days of carefreeness on these walks has changed now. It is sad to think that walking in the woods or taking a shortcut through the field brings hazards these days when it was done without a thought just a few short years ago. We have always had ticks in this area and I would frequently find them on our animals, but Lyme disease which was not identified until 1977 lingered to the south of us. Lyme was never an issue here until climate change meant winters have become milder and the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) has been able to survive these warmer temperatures. It is now in our area just north of the Vermont border.

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What does this mean for us and our closeness to the natural world? Experts say we should dress head to toe in long clothing, tuck our pants into our socks and douse ourselves with Deet before venturing into the woods. This makes sense if the goal is to make sure that nary a tick lands on you. But what of short forays on steaming hot days when dressing in this way would just deter you from going at all? And that’s my fear. Not the ticks as much as the thought of losing a carefree lifestyle we treasure. We moved here so that we could play in the woods and fields.

My husband and I have both found ticks on our bodies in the last few years and so have our neighbours. My husband didn’t discover his until it had been on for a few days and he had developed the classic bull’s eye rash. This meant a visit to the doctor and a round of antibiotics. My tick I discovered while showering after working in the garden. It had only been there a short time and I removed it carefully with tweezers making sure to not squeeze its body. Since it had only been attached for a few hours, I only had to watch for any symptoms that might emerge in the next 3 to 30 days. I wish I could say that I am relaxed about having ticks in this area, but I’m not.

I think twice about spontaneously going into the woods these days or cutting through the field. I make sure when I am in the woods to wear long pants and a hat. I often shower when I get back and check myself very carefully, not ignoring strange places like between my toes and behind my ears. I probe my scalp and hair feeling for any raised bumps. It’s a drag. And it has changed our lives. But it is not stopping any of us from enjoying the woods. It is why we moved here. We are still roaming our properties, albeit more cautiously than a few short years ago.

Happy Solstice Everyone!

IMG_2712.JPGWild roses in the pre-solstice evening glow.

Here in the country we are very aware of celestial happenings. Most of us can identify the different moon phases and know the kind of light they shed on the nighttime landscape. Full moons, for instance, mean that events usually held in the day can be held at night. In  the summer months there are full moon kayak excursions on the river and hikes on the mountain trails. In winter, it is snowshoeing or cross country skiing by the light of the moon. By contrast, on the dark of the new moon we know to bring a flashlight on any nighttime meanderings. And so it goes each month and through all the seasons marking the passage of time by the phase of the moon or the position of the sun in the sky.

One of the two biggest solar events of the year happens today. Summer and winter solstices are both very different but both really significant and worthy of  celebration. The summer solstice happened at 12:24 am EDT this morning and marks the day with the longest sunlight hours of the year. The word solstice itself is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) because at the solstice the seasonal movement of the Sun’s path (as seen from Earth) momentarily comes to a stop before reversing direction. The pessimist in us might lament that it is all downhill from here. (I must admit this thought always surfaces for me at some point on this longest day.) However, the present moment beckons and with it the giddiness of this day filled with light.

I will be at a beautiful country setting overlooking fields and a lake this solstice evening eating outside with friends. I will probably return home before day turns into night but what better way to mark the longest day of the year than outside with friends.

Every solstice since I have lived on this country property I have gone outside and picked  the flowers that are blooming at just this time. My only criteria is that they have to be wild and beautiful. I always pick the pink roses that bloom on our property and along the road. I combine them with the feathery foliage of  an annoying weed like plant which is as robust and strong as the sun.


My bouquet this year is not really up to snuff: the torrential downpours and gale force winds yesterday got to the roses before I did. But it’s the thought that counts. Right?

Happy Solstice Everyone!