Bleak winter’s day

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem was published, under the title “A Christmas Carol”, in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly

Resigning to a static state in Canada this winter has come at a price apart from the pandemic. We’ve proven ourselves quite unaccustomed and inadequate to the precipitous alteration of plans. More than once recently we’ve wistfully remarked, “This time last year...”. But the grey clouds persist. Currently the prospect of being anywhere else in the world – or even getting there – is riddled with obstruction. It now appears that being in a remote rural environment, no matter how wintry or bleak, is a fortune. We have for example the perhaps doubtful privilege of anticipating the availability of a hospital if needed. Meanwhile the virus continues to spread globally. And to my knowledge there is no end in sight – at least not enough to convince our federal government or medical insurers.

Time and again we nonchalantly drift to the apartment windows to examine through the sheers whether the roads are dry enough for bicycling. It is a futile quest!  Yet the interruption is as intolerable as limiting any other native instinct, so accustomed are we to cycling every day of the year. The enforced accommodation as well reminds me how I detest walking – not to mention my thoroughly depleted look when flapping my feet in front of me when do so.

It is naturally absurd to imagine that life without bicycling is a deprivation – especially if only temporary. Obviously we’ve coped with the distress in the past. It has occurred to me as well that the absence of the ritual regime may in fact be a good thing. Indisputably my lower back and limbs suffer the consequence of repeated identical movement. Whether I shall succeed over the coming winter months to stretch the timber of my carcass is another story. I have yet to prescribe for myself a new regiment of physical pursuit.

Meanwhile we’ve reduced our dynamics to other improving habits. For my part this includes a revival of my favourite novels – namely, authors like E. F. Benson, P.G. Wodehouse, J. P. Donleavy and Jane Austin. Granted these writers capture a lost and imaginary world but it has always provided me elevation both spiritual and literary. The demise of Trump from the world stage represents another achievement – though naturally without immediate connection to our usual affairs (other than having being glued to cable news to discover the daily dose of unsettling political madness). The global imperatives of education, health, climate and equality ring more loudly than ever before. The picture of isolationism, nationalism and independence has changed significantly. The only lingering entertainment of the the Trump administration is Trump’s now comical cling to the White House itself – illustrative of his mean spirited and puerile mind. Again and again I cannot but think they’ll eventually prove that the poor man is suffering catastrophic disability which regrettably has contaminated the Union. Equally inspiring is the prospect that Trump and his Mafia-style family will go to gaol in the same manner as Rudy Giuliani – himself a former Democrat and Independent – once provoked the other gangsters of New York City.

The deeper stream of my consciousness is commitment to a checklist of basic performances – everything from making the bed to washing the car, or brushing one’s teeth or cutting one’s nails. The hard truth is that at this period of my life I am relieved of many of the erstwhile necessities of existence – like working for a living or getting out of bed before seven o’clock in the morning. What remains is tantamount to a sponge administered to the outside world, the mere absorption of fact, information and stories.