Keeping despair at bay (part one)

November is my least favourite month. The increased darkness and cold and the loss of colour as leaves fall and flower gardens get put to bed are part of it, but mostly it’s knowing we are at the beginning of several months of the same, with the addition of snow and ice, that has really turned me against this month. After all, March is not so great either, but at least then we have the hope of April standing in the wings.

November this year feels worse than ever: infection rates are rising fast with no end in sight, our usual festive season gatherings aren’t going to happen, and we are likely to see new restrictions on what we can do, where we can go, and who we can see. Good thing, then, that a number of my pandemic-coping initiatives kicked in over the past couple of weeks.

Getting creative

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter, her partner and I made our way to the Firehall Theatre in Gananoque, where we took the first workshop in a series being run by the theatre. We spent two hours messing around with alcohol ink, instructed and guided by Kingston artist Rhonda Evans. We had an enormous amount of fun, did a lot of laughing, and left with two pieces each: one a small “practice” painting and the other our official work of art. A cash bar offered the opportunity to fortify our creativity if we so desired.

As Kate said when we left, clutching our masterpieces in our hands, it was two hours when we did not think about the world around us, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

When I got home, I turned my small practice piece into a card for my mother, and placed my framed painting where I can see it every day from my desk. It’s a reminder that there is still colour in the world, even if the trees outside my window have lost their leaves and the flowers in the garden are long gone.

A week in the County

We live just a short drive from Prince Edward County. While November may not be the most popular month to visit, we recently rented a house on the lake for a week’s break from our usual routines. The giant living room windows gave us a constant view of the water and horizon, which provided a constantly evolving canvas of blues, greys and greens, broken up in the evening by the sunset reds and pinks.

The brief heatwave earlier in the month had ended before our little trip, but we had two beautiful sunny days for exploring. One expedition was largely by car, where we meandered the back roads of the county, stopping at one winery to watch the workers carefully burying thousands and thousands of grape vines – and, yes, to buy a few bottles of wine.

Another day, friends joined us for a wander along the shore at the Point Petre Wildlife Conservation Area. The only wildlife we saw were some people tearing along the water’s edge in ATVs, but once we got past them, we had a lovely walk along giant flat shelves of limestone, covered with millions of zebra mussel shells.

Unbeknownst to me when I booked our house, our visit overlapped with Countylicious, an annual showcasing event for local farmers, food producers and restaurants. Needless to say, it looked very different this year. Participating restaurants, as usual, offered three-course lunch and dinner specials, priced at $20 and $40 respectively, with a new take-out option to accommodate pandemic realities.

We were not keen to get too close to visitors from pandemic red zones, but enjoyed one delicious meal at East and Main Bistro in Wellington before the weekend hordes descended.  To satisfy our lust for anything Mexican, the next night we picked up a very tasty take-out meal from La Condesa.

Our trips to PEC always include a stop at Casa Lucia, which sells Mexican ceramics and silver jewellery. Knowing we would not be making our usual trip to San Miguel this winter, we treated ourselves to some ceramic serving dishes, a lizard (who doesn’t need another lizard?) and enough ceramic tiles to finish off the trim in our sunroom.  Some jewellery also made its way into our bags.

During a wild wind and rain storm one day, we hunkered down and enjoyed homemade Chelsea buns (full disclosure: I used frozen pizza dough instead of making the dough from scratch) and hot apple cider while watching clouds scud across the sky. After that: a cribbage tournament. (I lost.)

It wasn’t a work-free week for me, but it was a meeting-free week, which felt like a vacation after nine months of constant online meetings. With my auto-responder on, I felt I could let emails sit if I didn’t want to answer them right away.

When we headed home, we felt sated in every way: we had had time for conversations big and small, we had eaten well (and enjoyed some good cocktails, too), read, and been soothed to sleep by the sound of the lake. I felt ready to return to the fray of life in a pandemic, at least for awhile, but I will be ready for another adventure soon.

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