The Countdown Begins

It’s Decem­ber, and that means 2 things: 1) a busy social cal­en­dar and 2) the count­down until the Win­ter Sol­stice. First, about the par­ties and oth­er cel­e­bra­tions, we actu­al­ly start­ed the sea­son in late Novem­ber at the Narvey’s who held a hol­i­day par­ty plus view­ing of the Canucks game (we lost, but Pam won the pool!). This past week­end we had a nice time with Matt and Oana, who this year decid­ed to cel­e­brate both Kram­pus and Saint Nicholas Day, since Oana’s sis­ter Nico­let­ta has him as her Saint (I’m not pre­cise­ly sure how that works, but I guess I’d get Saint David, the patron Saint of Wales, who has his day on March 1, right?) There was lots of great food, includ­ing the tra­di­tion­al stuffed cab­bages, a Roman­ian spe­cial­ty that Matt made along with cheeses, sausages and breads. I remem­ber my grand­moth­er, who was Russ­ian, used to make the best cab­bage rolls or  ‘Prachas’, as I remem­ber her call­ing them (also known as Gołąb­ki in Pol­ish). Pam and I brought some veg­gies with spicy peanut dip­ping sauce (not exact­ly tra­di­tion­al, but prob­a­bly a good foil to all the heav­ier, East­ern Euro­pean fare). This com­ing Thurs­day is the recep­tion and cel­e­bra­tion of the Best of 604 Awards, a brand new event that reminds me that we have a ton of great blog­gers deserv­ing of recog­ni­tion in this area. I’m thrilled that I actu­al­ly know sev­er­al of the nom­i­nees and hope they all win in their cat­e­gories.

12 Days until we Start Moving Toward the Light Again

Every year, around this week or so, I’ve got­ten in the habit of count­ing down to Decem­ber 21st, the Win­ter Sol­stice or short­est day of the year. It’s a turn­ing point, as if we’re all tak­ing a stroll toward a dark­er and cold­er end of the solar sys­tem and sniff­ing the air, and then turn­ing around and head­ing back (I know, it’s not exact­ly that, but it helps me visu­al­ize bet­ter what’s going on).

We haven’t stopped watch­ing US news, a habit we picked up when we were fever­ish­ly glued to the run-up to the elec­tion. After that media extrav­a­gan­za, it’s been the steady melt-down of the US econ­o­my that has held us with mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion.  Of course, there have been some reports of eco­nom­ic trou­ble here, such as the news this morn­ing that the Bank of Cana­da had dropped it’s key lend­ing inter­est rate by .75 basis points to 1.5%, which is report­ed­ly the low­est this bench­mark has been in a half a cen­tu­ry. Nev­er­the­less, there doesn’t seem to be quite the tone of pan­ic, fear and dread that we see and hear from the south of us.

So although it’s pret­ty gloomy out­side (heavy rain, wind and tem­per­a­tures that are slow­ly falling toward the freez­ing mark), we know that there will be that turn­ing point, and we know exact­ly when it starts, at least in terms of the num­ber of hours of pos­si­ble sun­light. On Decem­ber 22, the day will be a minute or so longer, and we are jour­ney­ing back to Spring, and even­tu­al­ly Sum­mer. My ace in the hole is that I know that as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary (Feb­ru­ary! My year­ly neme­sis!), there will like­ly be some cher­ry blos­soms here.  All we have to do is hang on anoth­er 20 days or so and we start to see signs of Spring!

Will the Inau­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Elect Oba­ma a month lat­er be the turn­ing point? Wasn’t that was his Elec­tion Speech was about ? (‘This was the moment’) Or didn’t I hear that phrase some­where much ear­li­er in his cam­paign?

I guess we can wait for the turn­around, but the prospect of hun­ker­ing down for one or two years is not very appeal­ing. Life is short, and the inex­orable pace of move­ment on this scale makes plot­ting a turn­ing point some­thing that can only be done years lat­er, when some his­to­ri­an or econ­o­mist, por­ing over the num­bers and trends points to a date and says ‘Aha! That was when things began to turn around.’ For us liv­ing through it, the eco­nom­ic sol­stice isn’t some­thing that we can count down to.

A Casualty of Economic Winter

Out of Town News in Cambridge

Out of Town News in Cam­bridge

There are also per­ma­nent loss­es; some com­pa­nies and insti­tu­tions that won’t live through this eco­nom­ic Win­ter to see Spring. Recent­ly I learned that Out of Town News, the spir­i­tu­al and archi­tec­tur­al cen­tre of Har­vard Square (it even had the address of Zero Har­vard Square), will be clos­ing for­ev­er on Jan­u­ary 31 of next year. While I know that the days of news­pa­pers and news­stands are num­bered, I’m sure that the down­turn in the econ­o­my has­tened the end of this insti­tu­tion, which along with the Wordsworth book­store (already gone for years — it closed even before we left), was some­thing that I’ll always see in my mind’s eye when I think of Cam­bridge. I have to admit that I only stopped in there a a half-dozen of times in the decade and a half I lived in Cam­bridge and the prices were near­ly as out­ra­geous for mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers as they are at May­fair News near us now on Broad­way (It’s prob­a­bly not their fault; mag­a­zines in Cana­da are crazy expen­sive!). Per­haps Out of Town News was on the wane long before we even took notice.

Besides the cher­ry blos­soms, I’m look­ing for­ward to the fin­ish of some new addi­tions (a new Whole Foods on Broad­way! Woo hoo!), and even a new street­car line from Granville Island to Sci­ence world, along with tons of oth­er new con­struc­tion for this city in this spring, and in the com­ing year in prepa­ra­tion for the 2010 Olympics. In the mean­time, time to head down to (hun­ker down in?) our win­dow­less but warm gym in the base­ment to lis­ten to pod­casts and ped­al on the sta­tion­ary bike, think­ing of those new places I’ll actu­al­ly be cycling to in a few months.

9 Replies to “The Countdown Begins”

  1. I have to get you out for some win­ter activ­i­ties to see the bright side of the win­ter dark­ness and rain in Van­cou­ver. I am going to check out when there is a full moon and orga­nize a snow­shoe up Dog Moun­tain on Mount Sey­mour. There is noth­ing like it and it makes all the rain worth while and we can leave it behind on the moun­tain and not have to wor­ry about shov­el­ling it.

  2. I like how you envi­sion the turn­ing point to longer days. It real­ly is not all that far away, is it? It’s drea­ry and driz­zly over here in Sooke so I think I’ll start on the hol­i­day décor. And I so agree with you on the mag­a­zine prices! You’d think with all these trees and paper plants they would be cheap­er. Then again so should gas, being so close to Alber­ta and all.

  3. Bob — Yes, I unchecked the iTunes mood mes­sage in Skype. Will be keep­ing my lis­ten­ing to myself for the time being.

    MJ — I have to say that a Snow­shoe up a moun­tain sounds like more than I can han­dle at the moment (too out of shape). Would half a moun­tain do?

    Doug — I’ve giv­en up on why stuff here always costs so much (aside from added tax­es). All I can think is that we just don’t com­plain, so they get away with it.

  4. @MJ Hey, have you ever done the new years snow­shoe on Cyprus? Where you go get hot choco­late and huge cook­ies at the half-way point? That was one of my most fave new years eves ever. (thanks for let­ting me chat with @MJ on your blog, @David)

  5. I love Win­ter Sol­stice too–it’s become my favorite ‘sacred night’ of the year. Every Sol­stice, peo­ple from the town of East­hamp­ton, MA (where I still cur­rent­ly live–awaiting the final sale of our house so we can move) and sur­round­ing towns get togeth­er for a won­der­ful Sol­stice cel­e­bra­tion. We gath­er round a bon fire, drink mulled cider and share songs and sto­ries about nature, win­ter, the night, the sun. We give thanks to Moth­er Earth for all the gifts she has giv­en us over the last three sea­sons and renew our com­mit­ment to care for the earth with greater con­scious­ness and respect in the com­ing year. The Mum­mers end the night with an antler dance around the fire.

  6. the prospect of hun­ker­ing down for one or two years is not very appeal­ing…”

    David! Does that mean you’re (gasp) COMING BACK?!?

    I dun­no. If I was you, I’d prob­a­bly stay up there in the Great White North, now that you’ve got a toe­hold and all. Don’t they have free med­ical care?

    At least they don’t have the kind of cor­po­rate scum­bag­gery that has this coun­try freefalling toward a sec­ond Great Depres­sion.

  7. Hey Pete -
    Thanks for the advice. I think we’re going to take it. The hun­ker­ing down will be done near­ly any­where (except Dubai, I guess), so we might as well do it in a place with mass transit(if we are car-less again), rel­a­tive­ly nice weath­er (although the snow we are see­ing is an awful lot like the Boston that we left!), and yes, free health care.

    This morn­ing some­one on the radio used my often-referred to approach­ing Tsuna­mi metaphor to describe the cur­rent state here (wait­ing for the rever­ber­a­tions of the US’s down­turn to take hold in oth­er provinces besides Ontario).

    That said, so far, we are OK. You’ll know if plans change. 🙂

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