Looking for hope (part four)

“Weather advisory” followed by “snow at times heavy” were not the words I wanted to see when I looked at the Environment Canada website a few days ago. I know snow at this time of year is not uncommon, but the forecast for 10 centimetres seemed just cruel.

Our Asian pear tree, which did not offer us a single pear last year, embraced the early warmth and has produced a huge number of buds far too early in the season, so we are crossing our fingers that, as long as the temperature does not go much below zero, we won’t lose our potential crop. If the buds survive the snow and we get fruit, we will move on to our battle with the birds, which like to take a couple of bites out of each pear just as it reaches perfect ripeness. But that is a problem for another month.

It was a bit discombobulating on Wednesday to look out my office window where, just days ago, I could see the bursting-into-bloom magnolia tree in my neighbour’s front yard to see, instead, snow falling steadily.

I decided that, rather than sink into a mire of despair, I would head out for my usual morning walk, and I am glad I did. The snow was, dare I say it, pretty, as were the tulips, daffodils and forsythia, all wearing little caps of snow.

Ducks and dandelions

Last weekend, when snow was not at all on my mind, my partner and I found a new-to-us trail, thanks to a tip from my daughter. The Kingston Waterfront Pathway, part of a 900-kilometre path running from Niagara to Quebec, meanders through downtown Kingston, mostly on the waterfront, but occasionally taking advantage of city streets. We jumped onto it at the marina in Portsmouth Village and walked to Lake Ontario Park and back. With the lake on one side, the rolling lawns of various institutions past and present on the other side and displays of painted stones along the way, it is a beautiful stroll.

We knew spring was here when we spotted the first dandelions of the season and listened to the chatter of mallard ducks as they swam along beside us. The birdfeeder garden installed in 1999 to commemorate the International Year of Older Persons, which looked about as decrepit as this older person feels some days, could use a bit of sprucing up, but that’s a minor point.

There are other segments of the pathway that we plan to explore over the next few weeks, perhaps packing a picnic lunch to take along once the weather warms up just a little more.

Spring cleaning

What is it about spring that turns most of our minds, even if only briefly, to the notion of decluttering? I am as susceptible to this as anyone, but this spring I’ve done nothing more than consider possible approaches to a major tidy-up without having the motivation to do much of anything. Well, I did take a stack of cookbooks I had not opened in years to the tiny library beside our neighbour’s house, all of which were grabbed up within a couple of hours.

If anything, our house is more cluttered than ever, due to a certain amount of pandemic stockpiling. While concern about a possible toilet paper shortage seems to have dissipated, Ontario’s most recent tightened stay at home order did send us out to the shops to lay in some supplies. Gin, of course, was top of the list, but not far behind was our favourite kind of pineapple juice. After all, one never knows when a pina colada might be an essential service in the task of maintaining hope.

My partner loves sardines. I don’t; in fact, I cannot stand even the smell of them, so he has kindly resisted eating them for the past year. However, the present lockdown drove him out to buy what I find to be a terrifying supply of the little gems. I am hoping he eats them outside while he cares for the pear tree – assuming it stops snowing, of course.

Separating need from want

The Guardian’s Grace Dent suggests that the stockpiling we all did last March and April gave us “a type of life in perpetuity” and was little more than a “fig leaf over selfishness and existential panic.”

“Full cupboards felt like some form of protection. I bought dried semolina and sago, despite finding both a torture in childhood. I bought tinned pineapple slices for vitamin C and bags of split lentils that fell from my highest shelves, half-stunning me each time I looked for the marmalade. With these abundant supplies, I had made myself semi-invincible.”

As the year has unfolded, though, she points out that we have learned it is not semolina or sardines that we need so much as the companionship of family and friends.

Whether or not I get around to spring cleaning, I am going to take Grace’s words to heart and focus my hopes on the opportunities to see the people I care about, in person and outside, once this lockdown ends and the weather moves steadily away from snow and towards warmth.

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