Musings on a Cold Winter Day

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Musings on a Cold Winter Day

While the Americans to the south of us have had the snowiest winter in history, particularly Bostonians, for us in southern Quebec, this winter hearkens back to the 1960’s, essentially a big chunk of my childhood (ages 6-16) when we still had the Fahrenheit scale and every day the thermometer hovered close to 0º (-17º Celsius) for much of February.

In those days, in the Montreal suburb of Town of Mount Royal, I used to take my time getting to school because I would climb the hills of snow created by the town’s snow blowers who threw the snow on the street onto front lawns. I used to imagine, as I climbed up and down each house’s “mountain”, that I was walking the Himalayas; each mountain was a miniature replica of what snow-covered mountains looked like from looking at photos in our World Book encyclopedia.

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I used to pick a letter from the encyclopedia volumes we kept in our basement and read it before going to sleep each night. I would open a page anywhere and see where it took me. I particularly liked looking at maps and artists’ renditions of dinosaurs.

I enjoy calling this winter a real “macho” winter; an almost non-stop collection of bitterly cold days strung together, often made worse by winds which only increase the pain. Almost every day we are many, many degrees colder than the norm.

Sometimes, when I am outside, especially in the country, I marvel at hearing a bird chirping. It amazes me that birds can survive the winter. You remember those TV shows showing incredible things with wild animals? What about the amazing fact that a small bird, weighing next to nothing (I’m thinking of the black-capped chickadees that do not migrate south in the winter), can manage to survive terribly cold weather. I imagine that they huddle together on tree branches, but so what? I also realize that they have extra layers of fat or feathers to prepare them, but still. Would you like to be outside with those little feathers warming you? Even bears, with their heavy layers of fat and fur, hibernate each winter.

And what do they live on? Birds are not like squirrels that might have a stash of seeds and nuts dug into the ground. How do these birds maintain their strength to get through a freezing cold winter?

And then, on a relatively nice winter day, there they are out chirping invisibly somewhere! Truly amazing!

I do see larger birds, too. Every time I drive into Montreal on a Monday morning I pass a spot where about fifty crows like to hang out. Maybe someone places some food there right on the road, I don’t know. How do the crows manage to survive the winter months? And the wild turkeys?

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I know that Nature has provided for them in some way or we wouldn’t have any surviving winter. I just don’t know what that something is and can’t imagine any “system” that would work. Guess that I’m just projecting.

Despite the unchanging cold (I know that being February 24th it should get significantly warmer soon), it is nice that at 5 pm, after work, it is no longer dark outside. It’s not fun arriving home at 5:15 in the dark, seeing nothing out one’s apartment window except street lights or the occasional Christmas lights still strung outside.

This morning I decided to do my grocery shopping before going to work, instead of after, since I enjoy having early dinners if possible. What a difference the local IGA is at 8 am instead of 5:15 pm!

The place is full of employees filling up the bins or putting out the freshly-baked bread, so it’s easy to ask someone for help. There are virtually no other shoppers around so you are never held back in the aisles. The photo below was something I saw at a bank beside the supermarket.

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