Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Short Days

You know what's nice? The days are getting longer again. What a huge relief. On Tuesday, I went to a Solstice party in Kensington Market. In previous years, I've marked the longest night of the year by a) doing nothing or b) getting schnockered with my mom. This year, I went to a street party comprised equally of children, hippies, and drunk hipsters, and I have to say, this was kind of a hoot.

I mean, I did my best to carry on the tradition of solstice tipsiness: we had some drinks after the bonfire, including Dieu du ciel's Solstice d'hiver and Great Lakes's Winter Ale. This past summer, I was all about Mill Street's totally drinkable Lemon Tea Ale, but the darker, spicier brews I tried on the solstice felt cozier and warmed the belly (and the blood - the Solstice d'hiver was a whopping 10.2% alcohol, which meant the half-bottle I drank went straight to my head and made me slurry in under ten minutes.)

But that was after. The event itself was a mini-parade of folks and their paper lanterns, leading each other down to Alexandra Park for the bonfire. I suffered with absolutely zero view, although I by the time I left the bonfire, I could tell you everything about the hoods on the coats of the girls in front of my face. Apparently there were fire spinners and native dancers, whose singers I definitely heard, and was thrilled by. I know it's super white of me to be all, "I love Native singers!" without being able to identify, like, specific tribes in that, but y'all know what I'm talking about when I say that, so let's not make each other feel bad. My special friend and I shared a Thermos full of tea and leaned on each other for a better view. And after the cultural expressions, the fire breathers lit up the bonfire, which was in the shape of a raven, and whose light warmed the faces of the entire crowd.

I struggle some in the short days, and I know I'm not alone. My friends Mike and Amanda wake up before the sun rises and leave work a scant fifteen minutes before it sets. Canadians suffer from chronic vitamin D deficiencies in the winter, a result of endless overcast days and less effective sunshine when it does break through. It's hard on people to be stranded in darkness, and endless night, aside from being an up-and-coming horror movie trope, is often a metaphor for death. Sometimes, in the bleak Toronto winters, it's easy to dramatically throw myself down on my mattress and declare, in my best middle-school voice, that I'm moving to New Mexico and I'm never coming back.

Which is a dirty lie. I love Toronto, and I even like winter most of the time. The wind cuts and the snow makes me crazy, but it beats the hell out of summer, which is when I want to move into a walk-in freezer and never come back. Truth be told, I'm at my best in the middle months, when the clocks change and the leaves are doing interesting stuff. I think a lot of people can identify with my not-at-all groundbreaking stance: room temperature is awesome.

But there's something to be said about looking around a crowd of bundled up, chilly people who have come out to bear witness to a long, slow, cold season. I feel better than I have in a long time, and while I know some of that has to do with my new special friend, old friends being around, and generally enjoying the Christmas season, I think marking the solstice definitely helped. So: enjoy the winter season. And think about a crowd of chilly people trying to stay warm together as they wait for the old year to burn away and turning their faces towards the light.

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