Monday, November 18, 2013

How Natalie Saved Christmas

Late afternoon, mid-November and I'm sitting in a corner booth at McDonald's with Dan. We had just finished sanding an antique sideboard at his shop and I was the one to suggest a coffee at McDonald's. After not setting foot in the place for over 35 years, I will now drink their coffee on occasion. This is an occasion; I'm depressed.

Depression feels like a vice grip clamping my brain. I've felt it coming on for weeks, have tried to ignore it, but it has closed in. Gloom eclipses my thoughts and days are getting darker. Thank god November coincides; it's always difficult to describe this pain in the spring.

I've suffered from depression all my life. Some of the best comedians have. That's not to say I'm one of the best comedians -- I'm pretty good -- but I'm not great and certainly not the best. I have a melancholic nature and I discovered early the antidote to that is to assume the opposite. I remember as a child sitting in an armchair (it was orange woven fabric ) and numbly staring off. I did that fairly often. It was either that or recite goofy stories I wrote for my classmates.

Today I'm pensive, staring off onto the street, the heavy slate sky matching the concrete side walks. Colours hurt right now. The red AutoWash sign across the street makes me squint. Autumn, time of decay and inevitability. There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't feel a cell die. Today is the Santa Claus parade too. I went last year and felt deliriously happy, swept up in the holiday magic and cheer. This year I feel too low, to inexplicably ashamed to go. I have a sip of coffee and tell myself to be patient, that this internal dread and fear will pass.
I see her in my peripheral vision, tallish, wearing a grey hoodie. She is nearing.
"Do you have any money? I'm hungry."
I glance up. She's standing over me and looking into my eyes. Dan is sitting across from me and she doesn't see him. I don't feel fear, annoyance, repugnance, pity, compassion. I feel nothing. She has asked me a question and all I can do at that moment is be truthful because I'm numb.
"Yes, I have some money. Let's go get something to eat."
"Can I have McNuggets?"
I dig seven dollars and fifty cents out of my wallet.
"I have seven dollars and fifty cents. Let's see what that will buy."
"Can I have a combo?"
"This is all I am going to spend. Let's see what it will buy."
There is a line up at the counter and she steps in front of the queue. I tell her we have to wait our turn.
"How are you today?" I ask.
"I'm fine."
"I wanted to go to the Santa Clause parade today, but, well, I didn't make it," I say.
"Uh huh."
"Have you ever been?"
Her eyes are glazed and fixed. She smells of old wool and body odour. Her hair is close cropped. I'm guessing she is between 30 and 40 years old. She is stooped.
"Are you from Toronto?" I ask.
"I was born in Jamaica."
"Do you have brothers and sisters?"
"I'm an only child."
"Do your parents live in Toronto?"
"My mother is in Mississauga and my father lives in New York City."
"New York City. That is a great place, one of my favourites."
She smiles and she is lovely.
"Where do you live?"
"I'm homeless. I have bipolar and I can't work."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Natalie. What's yours?"
"I'm Carol." I extend my hand. "Nice to meet you Natalie. That is a lovely name."
When it is our turn to order I ask for 10 chicken McNuggets. She asks the cashier for a combo pack and the cashier says no, because I only give her seven-fifty.
I leave Natalie and return to the corner booth and to Dan, who has noticed the police have shut down traffic on Keele. I try not to think about the ridiculousness of living in Toronto these days.
I see Natalie carrying a tray and sitting down at another table.
"Look," says Dan, pointing.
I turn around and face the street. A flat bed truck goes by, giant fairy tale ducks in tow. I hear someone say the float is probably going up to Weston for its Santa Claus parade. Another flat bed truck whizzes with a Smurfs display. I am on this.
"Natalie! Come over here. Come sit with us!" I'm waving at her and she comes over with her tray.
"Look outside!"
Float and float goes by, shiny candy canes, gingerbread people and gingerbread houses, penguins in bow ties, all barrelling down Keele. Natalie offers Dan a McNugget.
"That one is pretty," she says of the gingerbread float.
I'm smiling now, perked by the crazed parade.
"Hey, here come the reindeer!"
We see the big finale shoot by, the twelve reindeer, the north pole workshop and Santa's sleigh. Three people not Santa are sitting in the sleigh. People on the side walk have all stopped to watch this. They wave anyway.
Natalie has finished her McNuggets. "I have to go now," she says.
"Where are you going?"
"I have to go back to the shelter now. Thanks for the McNuggets."

And then she hugs me.

For that instance, my cells stop dying. She hugs me and I feel alive. She shuffles away and out the door.
My eyes meet Dan's. We don't say anything. We're both tearing up. Natalie, for those few moments, has transformed me. She has blessed me. There is no other way to describe it.
"There needs to be more housing for people," Dan says.
"Yes." Grateful, I let the tears flow and lift my coffee cup and touch his.  "Merry Christmas, Natalie."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dear EPublisher

 Dear EPublisher:

Thank you for your interest in my first novel Please Stand By. I do appreciate your notes, support and eagerness to get it into the www. ether. However, your enthusiasm has been a deciding factor in my pulling the manuscript from your epublishing company.

I can hear the sighs of disappointment from my legions of fans. I can hear the accusations about denying the public my humourous insights, searing imagery and complex characterization. How dare I be so selfish.

Ah, yes, I can hear them, as I tap a spoon against my tea cup. The roar is deafening.

The simple fact is -- I don't read ebooks.

Not only that, I don't have a smart phone and I don't have cable or satellite TV. I have a phone that was given to me in 1994. It has an oversized keypad because it is a phone for the visually impaired. It plugs in to the wall.

I can go down the list.

I am not anti-technology, far from it. I am not a Luddite. I am a Luddite-light perhaps. That's a better term than cheapskate.

So I realized -- why would I have my novel published as an ebook when I don't read them?

You also told me I had to get on Twitter, PinInterest and Facebook. This caused many sleepless nights. I joined Facebook in July 2013 at your insistence. Call me a late adopter. I use it reluctantly, as a promotional depot. I hate the thought of bothering people with "notifications" and feel guilty when I don't respond to personal requests for online friendship. The less time I sit and stare at a computer screen, the happier I am. Maybe If I am ever "liking" a beheading on Facebook, I'll be more open to using Twitter and PinInterest.

Which leads me to the main reason I have decided to put my manuscript on hold with your company.


We were going to put an Indiegogo campaign together for me to ask people to pre-order my book. I wrote a funny script and lined up an excellent cinematographer to shoot it.

And then I pulled the plug. So close.

Cancer researchers use crowdsouring. NGOs use crowdsourcing to raise funds for typhoon victims. Writers who are social media darlings use crowdsourcing.

I could not in good conscience go electronic cap-in-hand. Even to friends and family. Especially to friends and family. This is a first novel, not a cure for Alzheimer's (although it has been said I am a clever writer). Can't do it. Even if it, as you say, "pre-ordering".

So where does that leave Please Stand By?

Exactly where it was a year ago, under a stack of paper on the bottom book shelf in my office and as a Word document. It may stay there indefinitely. Or I may work up the nerve again and send it to small Canadian publishing houses. And I do mean houses, there is one around the block from where I live.

Thank you very much for tolerating my infernal unwillingness and knuckle-cracking. I am confident you have moved on at lightening speed to the next fortunate writer.

I remain,

Carolyn Bennett writer/comic

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why YXE?

Late afternoon, Saskatoon airport. We're up on the A departure level; three gates adjacent to each other.  After a peaceful week of visiting Saskatchewan and camping in Banff, we're relaxed. I'm still high from my first scramble up an avalanche shoot to the top of a Lake Louise peak. The departure lounge is brightly lit, sunshine streams through the wall sized windows that overlook the tarmac. I'm watching the tail end of a Blue Bomber/Rough Rider game on the lounge TV, Dan is flipping through his smart phone.

The plane arrives 20 minutes behind schedule. An announcement comes on the PA system.

Sorry for the delay folks, there were some strong headwinds flying in from Toronto. We'll just do a safety check and get you on your way shortly.

I heard the same sort of announcement at the same time last year, on a flight heading back to Toronto, with the same airline. That aircraft lost cabin pressure at 35,000 feet and had to make an emergency landing in Winnipeg.

I shoot a glance at Dan. He munches on trail mix and smiles at me.

I jump and head to the window to watch the airport crew unload baggage from the plane. I watch them insert a big pump into the plane and into the plane's wing. Arms folded, rocking on my heels, I watch. I turn to see passengers walking by me. I see two pilots greet the other two pilots who will take us to Toronto. My stomach squeezes. I see one pilot nodding and another turn and gesture toward the window. My head whips around to the plane. My eyes shoot back at the pilots conferring.

I do not have a good feeling about this. The pit of my gut is a rock. Am I the only one who notices? Do I ask the pilots if I may join their conversation? Or do I relax and remind myself there are some things you can control and some things you can't?

Fifteen minutes later we're on the plane. I've popped a tranquilizer as a pre-emptive strike. Nothing to worry about. There are hundreds of flights across the globe taking off right now. This is routine, this is Saskatoon. You're being a drama queen.

Dan knows I had a bad flight last year. He pats my knee.

We're taking off, the wheels rise and the airplane climbs. Almost immediately I sense something isn't right. The plane shouldn't have to labour this much to get airborne. Then, I smell it. Something odd. Dan is looking out the window. The plane feels stalled. I see a man the row ahead of us look sideways. And he says to no one in particular, do you smell something burning?

Although I have tranquilized myself, my heart pounds furiously and I break into a sweat. Breathe, my yoga teacher would say.

Flight attendant calls sound from multiple rows. I squeeze Dan's hand. From the outside, you'd never know I'm flooding with cortisol. The plane starts levelling off mid-rise. That is not normal.

Underneath  my calm facade I'm in a rage. This is happening again, another airplane malfunction. I think about Dan and how if I was alone, I would be okay with crashing. But I am not okay with him crashing, being hurt, losing his life. This is between me and the airline now, between me and a higher power letting me know who's boss.

After a few minutes the pilot informs us we struck a bird and must return to Saskatoon. Un oiseau seulement.

Geese brought down US Airways Flight 1549 a.k.a Miracle On The Hudson.

Back at the airport, we're told we'll be accommodated on another flight leaving at 7:15pm.  After that flight is cancelled due to mechanical failure, we're informed there will be room for us on the 11:15pm flight.

A week earlier I was on top of a mountain, exhilarated. Now I'm searching the internet for train and bus schedules.

I realize my anger is mixed with grief. My father worked for this airline for 30 years, soldiering on and supporting us six kids doing a job he loved, then tolerated, then suffered. He practically gave his life to this airline, an airline that now seems to be more about marketing and satisfying shareholders. My father died driving his car one day, his heart exploding. At least he wasn't flying.

We board at 11:15pm and have a non-nonsense flight back to Toronto. The roar of the engines are determined. We're slicing through night sky at hundreds of kilometres an hour. I'm in the fetal position on two chairs, numb from two more tranquilizers.

I love flying. I love the seeming impossibility of it. That's why I'm angry and sad and still feel grief. Sooner or later, we're all struck down.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Social Media and the Push for Please Stand By

Dear Carolyn,
We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript Please Stand By has been accepted for publication. Note that we are not a traditional publisher. While we only publish books that meet our standard, we will not incur any upfront costs. You have to do your part to acquire funds to allow for publishing. We will help you with that through an Indiegogo campaign and crowdsourcing because you have made it clear you will not self-fund (self-publish). We want to work with you and believe your novel will enjoy commercial success.
What we need you to do now is get on social media. We need you to have an online presence. We suggest you start with Twitter and Facebook. Expanding your brand in the community will help engage more readers with your excellent work.
If you need any assistance, please don't hesitate to email.
All best,
Ebook publisher.
Carolyn Bennett
Want to drink some Koolaid and meet the lord? Follow me!
Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for your first tweet! While we appreciate your willingness to join social media, we suggest you find a more congenial approach. Let people get to know you and engage with your awesomeness. Thanks!
Hi community. Will someone help me get some milk out of the fridge? My back gave out.
Sorry to bother you, but I need to advertise.
I pixilate therefore I am.
I miss email.
Germany Invades Poland.
Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for all your hard work getting the tweets out! Maybe Twitter is not for you, considering you have no followers and that you are not following anyone yourself.
Why don't we set up an author's page for you on Facebook. I realize you have held off on joining Facebook since its inception and that the thought of promoting yourself is abhorrent. So consider the Facebook page a website for the book! It is all about your novel (although people do want to know about you, on a personal level). On Facebook you can invite friends to "like" you, and that way they will know about your upcoming Indiegogo campaign for Please Stand By.
Please give it a try, Carolyn. We are here to help. By the way -- You need a new name.
All best,
ebook publisher.
Dear Ebook publisher:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Oh man -- I'm quoting the bible. I must be scared.
Once, in Jasper National Park, I jumped off a cliff; falling, flailing, screaming into glacier water.

Brace yourself:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

McDonalds May Still Rule All

The workers in their hard hats, paint-stained jeans and plaid shirts queue. The sun, blazing with optimism and best intentions, makes some guys squint. I haven't taken off my shades. The breast pocket of the plaid shirt I'm wearing is laden with keys and wallet. I dig in, looking for some change, but Dan says he'll get it.

The McDonalds army weave and bob, working in symmetry. The assembly line is occasionally disrupted by human error. Someone has forgotten a coffee order. Someone has placed an Egg McMuffin in the wrong bag. Someone is gazing out the window. They quickly snap back to attention, these McDonalds workers. Woe to the wandering mind -- one false misstep and someone might get trampled. Traffic is everywhere. It's 8 a.m.

Up until a year ago, I hadn't stepped into a McDonalds for over 35 years. When I was a teenager, I had a t-shirt made up that said McDonalds Rules All. I have disdain and mistrust for the processed food industrial/agricultural complex. I delight in things like rutabagas and celeriac root; ugly vegetables in their natural state. While I appreciate fine dining and support anything organic and local, I am also keenly aware of our two-tiered food system. As one writer wrote in (I think) an Atlantic Monthly article, people starving in poor nations don't care if food is locally sourced, gluten-free and dolphin-friendly -- they want sustenance to stay alive.

Dan, my wood-working, all-around guy who deals in physical reality, need sustenance. He needs his $1.49 muffin and coffee. He has lived off the stuff for over a decade. He just loaded nearly one thousand pounds of plywood into the van. Dan weighs 146lbs. Is he addicted? Hell yeah. Will he give up his $1.49 coffee and muffin? No.

Young mothers with strollers, blue collar workers, people over 70 -- they are all milling, McD bags in tow, looking for a seat. The 8 a.m. sun is brilliant, slanting and expansive at the same time.

No one is bothered by the two-tier food system here. I brood. Dan notices, splits his cranberry muffin in two and hands me some.

Hungry, I take it.


Bennett News: 
My screenplay The Mac And Watson Springtime Reeferendum Show won the 2013 TIFF Screenwriting Intensive Jury Prize.
Thank you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Master Of One's Own Stuff

“These scribes are going to be hard to put in, so put some glue on the back edge and use some shims to clamp it into place.”


"First, hand me the dado blade. I need to cut a rabbet."
"Will do ..."

I rummaged through a tool box, trying to look like I knew what I was doing. I held up a screwdriver.

"Is this what you want?"

"That's a screwdriver."

'I know ... "

Dan found the dado blade by looking in a drawer. I knew I was in for a humiliating few days.

I have been helping Dan in the woodworking shop. Dan is a master cabinet maker/carpenter/all around guy who deals in physical reality. I am a writer/comedian/person who deals in abstractions. I thought it would be a lark to get my hands dirty. 

Precious little me.

My biggest workplace hazard is a paper cut. Dan's is sawing off his fingers. Being surrounded by heavy machinery and hand tools was a welcomed distraction from computer screens and the suck of the internet. 

Now, working in the shop is a bit of an obsession. It is where I go for serious ego-deflation.

I am white collar. Dan is blue collar. I am impressed each of us even have collars.

Dan grew up in Biggar Saskatchewan and worked on his uncle's farm from the age of seven to 15.

I grew up in Montreal Quebec and worked at pumping gas, serving food and mangling the French language from the age of 15 to 23. The years seven to 15 I spent avoiding any semblance of responsibility.
Sitting at a computer and spitting out, say, this blog, requires a modicum of ability. A grasp of grammar and sentence structure helps, as does a vocabulary. Having something to say is icing on the cake. The hardest part of writing is sitting still and blocking out the external world. Writers have to go into a kind of trance. Being in a trance is dangerous around heavy machinery. Full attention is better.

Dan's work requires a firm grasp of external reality. Measurements to the exact millimetre. Dexterity. Physical strength. The ability to carve, mold, hammer, glue, sand, drill, AND draw.  This is the ultimate arts and crafts. His work is spectacular.

He also has to envision what a piece will be, engineer its functionality, assemble and refine parts to create a whole unit. All this in physical reality.

There was a time when doing things yourself was part of life. Now we farm out different aspects of ourselves; we hire people to mow our lawn and garden, fix the roof, walk our dogs, pick up our dry cleaning. Dan can rewire a kitchen because it's something he learned from working alongside electricians. Dan is not an electrician, but can do the work himself. Self-reliance comes naturally to him, the result of growing up in a rural environment. 
It is a quality I admire very much.

Modern society has denigrated the useful arts, to the point where it has made your average city dweller infantile. We are becoming a society of lard-ass automatons, unable to think and do for ourselves. Snobbery toward those who work with their hands, those who build, is ignorant. Where are all the jobs now, the media tells us? The skilled trades. 

There's a brilliant little book called Shop Class As Soulcraft by gearhead and philosopher Matthew Crawford. It examines our lack of connection to the material world and celebrates the honour of the manual trades. There's a chapter called To Be Master Of One's Own Stuff where Crawford illustrates the idea of spiritedness:

Spiritedness is an assertion of one's own dignity, and to fix one's own car for [ example] is not merely to use up time, it is to have a different experience of time, of one's car and of oneself.

I am a hell of a long way off from being master of my own stuff, but at least I'm willing to try. I want that different experience. I now have the splinters to prove it.


Monday, April 15, 2013

The Yearly Visit With The Accountant

"I owe how much??"

It's a privilege to live in Canada and pay taxes, I keep telling myself.

"It's a privilege to live in Canada and pay taxes," I say to my accountant.

"Keep telling yourself that," he nods.

We've been together a long time, Gary and I. He's seen me go through several boyfriends, jobs and hair colours. I have settled on grey, in general. Nice and neutral, without being black and white.

"Can't you do anything?"

"You need to spend more."

"What -- and be one of those people who spend more? No can do."

He frowns at a figure.

"That's all you spent on your hair?"

"Look at it."

"I have clients who spend more on chocolate bars in a year. Go to a nice salon sometime."

"Nice salons intimidate the hell out of me."

He taps on his calculator and I sit back. He shakes his head.

"Did you try to figure out the HST on your own? Is that what these numbers are?"

"Yes. I thought I was helping..."

He sighs and continues tapping.

"I'm performing more," I say.

"What -- oral sex?"

"If I was performing oral sex on a regular basis, my income would be way higher."

"That is true," he says. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. I could only say that to you."

"I take deep offense to your sexist and demeaning remark ... can I write off pajamas?"

He shrugs and keeps calculating. I am always on top of my taxes. This stems from being raised by two public servants. My father was honest to a fault. To a fault. As was my mother. They never should have told me, when I was eight, that I had "teeth in the back of my head." To a fault.

I see Gary, my accountant, once a year, usually in April. I think he's had some work done. The skin on his face has a sheen, a tightness. I want to say "bubula -- why?" His hair doesn't have a touch of grey. We're the same age. No one will give him incredulous stares at Me Va Me, like the entire restaurant did me.

"By the way, I'm no longer seeing clients in April. No more one-on-one sessions. It will be strictly drop off."

I am crestfallen. "But Gary -- does this mean I'll never see you again? You were the one to tell me to get an upper GI series. They found an ulcer, thanks to you!"

"You, you can come in late March or May. Do you know I have over six hundred reports to file? I'm getting old..."

I wanted to tell him no, that I didn't want to hear that talk, that we will always be in our springtime. I tug at the shirt riding up my back.

"Is this goodbye then?"

"Stop being melodramatic. No -- I still need your EI tax deductions. You'll have to come back next week."

I'm relieved. My accountant wants to see me again. He is not going anywhere. He will stay behind his calculator and not age, not forget what he just said, not misconstrue.

Not this year. 

PS: If you're in Toronto, come see Hitler's Ass

Friday, March 15, 2013

It Pays To Dust

"Dust is the enemy of electronics," my engineer father used to say. It is also the enemy of writers. Dust collects on long neglected work such as plays, stories, novels. The more indefatigable of the writing species hustles their work. I'm the type who tends to let the dust collect, not become I lack ambition, rather, I am indifferent to dust. Only when I have a hard time breathing do I get out the rags and give 'er.

Two weeks ago, I dusted off a never produced, barely read one act play and submitted it to a Toronto theatre company holding a contest for new work.The five plays that made it to the finals were read last Wednesday, to an enthusiastic house.

I found out today that my play, Hitler's Ass, won and will have an eight show run in mid-April.

Surprised? Yes, if not shocked. I have no connection with this company and assumed I would be in the running, but not a winner.

It pays to dust.

The title Hitler's Ass is a cynical move on my part to attract attention. However, it is apropos of the theme; the quest for physical perfection and eternal life on earth -- all shades of Nazi experimentation on humans. It is an ass.  It is a stubborn fallacy.

How's that for an answer?  Plus it will grab attention.

Thank you Sterling Studio Theatre, for having the courage to form a company, rent a space and produce new work. I sure don't.


Monday, February 11, 2013

What We Survive

Picture of me and John Hood outside the Motel St. Jacques. 

Went up the road to Montreal for the funeral of my dear friend Sean Keane in December. Was supposed to go Washington D.C. that weekend, to celebrate a year of working on an American Civil War project (way to louse up my vcay Sean!).  Many old friends filled the back pews of St. Ignatius for the Rite of Christian Burial. Sean had a faith, a magical way of getting through life. The presiding priest mentioned Sean’s comedy and somehow worked in a moral angle. After the mass, some of us went to a burger joint on Westminster, laughed about old times and got caught up.

My home town. 

Hung around NDG and saw ghosts everywhere. Visited my old high school, the back where I used to smoke joints and wish no one would find me out, discover the twisted mental case lurking under the glazed eyes and cute smile. Imagined my former self 35 years ago, going up to that kid and saying .. nothing. Intervention? No -- I'd practise the fine art of turning a blind eye. Painting a room once the offspring has left the nest. Paint that room immediately and erase any trace of a former life.

Get out.

Marymount in NDG. What a dump. Apparently drug dealers pedalled their wares at the school every day. I learned that from an old Marymount guidance counselor I met at a twelve step retreat a couple of years ago. Apropos 35 years later meeting her. I told her I was one of their best customers.

My childhood and teenaged years. Ghost wreckage.  Helicopter parents? More like crash and burn parents in my social circle. Just the way it was back then. No interference with the natural progression of an independent life. Influence was more inference, letting nature weed out the weak.

What we survive.

Yep, the trip down memory lane had potholes and speed bumps and water main breaks. But it also had the blazing light of youthful exuberance, of drowse and bursting imagination. I almost went down, but live to rail, drift and love.

For those who will, please have a listen to yours truly on the Comedy Above The Pub podcast, hosted by Todd Van Allen and Darcy Fiander. 

I advertise the Tribute To Sean Keane.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Here I am skating at the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval in Saskatoon. Which one I am in the picture? (Hint: I am not the speed skater)

I wait all year for this.

Air so cold it stings.  Snow squeaking underfoot. The high soaring sound of a deep January night. A crisply etched moon.  Solitude. Silence.

Winter is clarity. The senses are sharper. The brain, insulated by a friendly hat,  is at its optimal temperature. The world is angular, sketched, bare when it is dry. Precipitation is snow and ice, a magical force, enough to shut down airports, subways and buses. It can bring a city to its knees.

Kids get to stay home from school. The lucky ones get to go outside and play.

Blame snowflakes.

I grew up with snow drifts so high they could bury a kid alive. My brother once burrowed six feet deep into a drift, iced the sides, and tossed my little brother in the pit. And left him there, until his muffled cries alerted my parents who called out for him in the ringing cold.


Winter is survival, being conscious of the heart beat and breath. It is quiet streets and white icing. It is the soul's sojourn.

Winter is hockey and Les Habs.

I experienced cold like I haven't had in years, when I travelled to Saskatchewan to meet Dan's family at Christmas. It felt both familiar and foreign, Canadian yet  cryogenic. This is the way it used to be. I have been deprived living in Toronto, part of Canada's banana belt. The winters here are positively tropical.

But not this week.

The temperature will not rise above minus 5 for the next six days. I rejoice.  That means skating outdoors, skiing where the snow is and wearing a toque 24/7.

The full moon is on January 26. I'll be looking up into the deep, dark galaxy and pining.