We've been in a deep freeze now for over a week. The lower the mercury drops the fewer signs of life I see. The squirrels are holed up in various locales. One has chewed a hole in the side of the garage and one has been seen performing a disappearing act under the front porch; possibly the same who makes a bit of nightly noise in the attic. It's been weeks since we've heard the coyotes howling at night or the surrounding dogs baying to each other from farm to farm like a childhood game of telephone. One can sense that life has stopped, frozen in time, waiting for a gasp of warm air to set everything back on course again.
There is no surer way of being in tune with each season than when you live in the country. Winter brings its own uniqueness to the seasonal equation. Living in the country, at this time of year, has made me realize, more than ever, how fragile life is. What or who will survive these frozen days? Mailboxes don't survive the breakneck speed of passing snowploughs, (even temporary ones painted in road hazard orange), plants surrender to fathomless temperatures, unkind taps can no longer resist a career change and become an icemaker (ka-ching!). I hear of tragic accidents involving snowmobilers, stranded motorists or the dangers of thin ice. I realize that the peacefulness and beauty of the country can hide dangers that are at times transparent.
And so, I've been forced to take a new view of my own safety. Morning rush hour and vanity be damned, I wear a thick pair of socks over my work dress socks. A toque is donned each morning even if it means the warmer the hat, the worse the hat head. Extra boots, and a safety kit are stored in the trunk and as I get into the car each morning, I bow to my husband's gift giving practicality, and sink into the electric warmer covering my seat. And yes, I know, we've all been told that you should keep your gas tank more than half full so it will add weight to your rear end. Well, let me add to that (no pun intended) a piece of advice. When the temperature drops to -20C there is a chance your fuel door could freeze. God forbid it should happen when you have less than few litres left in your tank, and you have two children to pick up from school, more than 60km away. Trust me on this one, it isn't the best time to discover what your odds are.
So while our hearts are always heavy to hear of the passing of human life, it stings me even more during these icebound days to think of Hades, building up his ranks in the underworld, while the rest of us are left like Demeter grieving for our Persephone. I have no desire to reach her stratum just yet. I'll endure these numbing days, thankful to be alive.