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
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.