The polar temperature today – minus sixteen degrees Centigrade – was a record so far for the season. After yesterday’s near chilling cycle along the old railway line we knew better than to attempt that finger-numbing adventure again today. So this afternoon in the interest of fresh air and exercise we opted instead to walk along the Ottawa River at the Nepean Sailing Club in Andrew Haydon Park. To prepare for the outing it was first necessary to reacquaint myself with the seldom used closet in the study where years ago I had hung my winter coats and tucked away on the shelf above my mittens, gloves and hats. Until that moment it was a wardrobe I had not had occasion to revisit. Putting on the gear indoors was itself an endurance though not of the boreal nature that was to follow when we commenced our walk.
Our walk bordered on the cosmetic. As we bent into the bitterly cold north wind howling down the Ottawa River directly into our whitened faces we soon realized it was a project not for the faint of heart. We walked about one kilometre. Having thus expiated our erstwhile guilt of indolence we speedily reunited with the comfort of the car, making certain hastily to activate in addition to the cabin warmth the heated steering wheel and seats. By odd coincidence our next visit was to Trail Head outdoor store in search of Merino wool long underwear.
We punctuated the drive home on the dry roads by fuelling the car and having it washed, itself a beautifying option which was perhaps extraordinarily thoughtless if one attributes – as I am wont to do – human traits to inanimate objects. The habits of cycling and car washes are not especially appropriate in Arctic conditions. We subsequently paid for the indiscretion by having to struggle to open the car doors in order to unhinge them from their frozen locks.
As unaccustomed as we are to receive traditional mail, the postman today energized the Christmas spirit with a winsome card from friends. We also chatted on the telephone with my niece and her partner who had just returned from delivering food to the needy and homeless. It was a sharply defined reminder of the disadvantage which so many suffer year round – and equally regrettably a cue that the poor shall always be among us.
Listening later to Christmas carols I was as well directed to the significance of spiritual endorsements at this time of year. There is no doubt that I have little truck with religious propositions generally but when I heard that the midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the local Catholic church is already “booked” (presumably a product of the pandemic) I had to confess its ethereal legitimacy. Judging by those whom I know, the inspiration may not be based on fact but seemingly la condition humaine demands it. Who can pretend to fathom the stirring and tearful boost of sacred music? What billowy surge disturbs the vast profound within each of us? What indeed is the bread by which man lives?