Winter Landscape

An important survival skill, when living a life of isolation, is to structure time according to conditions. Winter, bringing dangerous driving conditions, and requiring strategies for domestic heat, alters the daily landscape. Travel becomes a complex challenge, vulnerable to unpredictable circumstance. In the winter our world shrinks, and we are made aware of the forces of the natural world. How very different this is from living in an urban setting, even in a small town.

After enjoying the freedom of movement afforded by clear driving conditions and temperatures above freezing, I have been slow to adapt to winter conditions. It is time now. The world has turned white. The roads out are capricious. The masonry heater must be fired several times each day. The seasonal people have all fled this natural environment for urban comforts and conveniences. Attila is seldom seen in daylight; neighbours are only seen from a distance.

My world transformed slowly, over the course of a few weeks. My first, unthinking, reaction has been to spend copious amounts of time working on my computer projects. I began to notice stinging eyes, aching neck and wrists, and shortness of breath when moving about. Oh dear! Inactivity, the real challenge of confinement, requires conscious effort to overcome.

To prevent myself from spending too much time at the computer keyboard, I have setup my timing software to allow 30 minutes of computer activity, before freezing the computer for five minutes. When the computer freezes I get up to stretch and putter around the house. That gives me 10 minutes of activity every hour. This does not provide me with enough consecutive movement to give my system a workout. But it is far superior to working through the entire day on the computer, which I am quite capable of doing, without even noticing. Perhaps too, it is time to commandeer the kitchen cart as a standing computer desk; at least occasionally.

In the realm of the printed page, a few shorter paragraphs are easier to digest than one very long paragraph. So it seems with time, short broken segments of time seem much easier to digest.

The wind abated somewhat last night, so Attila and I went for a walk during the evening. By the time Attila gets home it is dark outside, so we walk in the dark. There are no lights, other than the neighbour’s dim beacons of domestic habitation, so it takes a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the dark, so that we can see our way down the road. It is difficult though, for Attila to find time to go for a walk, as he has worked long hours during the day, and must chop wood, and keep the heating system going, when he comes home from work. We both enjoy it though, when we manage to get out there together.

Tonight Attila is exhausted, he had a busy, busy day at work. After bringing in enough wood for three firings, he begged off being awake and headed early to bed. I will stay up to close down the masonry heater when the fire is spent, and then I will follow his example and take myself off to bed. It is getting colder, we are expecting a low of -13C, then down to -17C tomorrow night. With the 40 to 60 km per hour winds, the wind chill bites.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 9:50 PM EST Wednesday 27 November 2013
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -9.1°C
Dewpoint: -12.6°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: NW 24 gust 39 km/h
Wind Chill: -17


“By learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness toward ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.”
Thomas Moore
1779 – 1852

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Tell me, do you heat solely with wood? When the last of the fire goes out before bed, does it get very cold overnight? Or does the stove continue to put out heat.

When we were first married, we had a wood-burning stove and one time something went wrong and it filled the house with heavy smoke – I thought I would suffocate from it. After that, we axed it and went with the heating system…