The first frosts and snows of the season have settled on good, old Winnipeg town, and arctic winds are blowing backward from the near-future to warn us of the harsh winter ahead. I know it will be harsh here because—did I mention Winnipeg? In just a few short weeks, the Red and Assiniboine rivers will be frozen to a depth of many feet, traversed by skates, skis, snowshoes, dog teams and even—incredibly, I’ve seen this—an intrepid soul or two in high heels; which requires serious levels of either drunkenness or blithe savoir faire.
Winter, of course, is the season with the highest physical injury rates, both in frequency and severity. I don’t actually know this for sure, but last night I scorched my hand by picking up a cast iron frying pan (drunkenness) that had moments before been taken out of a 450-degree oven by someone wearing nuclear-facility approved oven mitts (savoir faire). I know, I know; it’s a small sample size; I could definitely be wrong. Nothing is more likely. Still, I’m going to stick with that suspect statistic, just because it seems to fit nicely with my point, if you can call it a point.
So, winter—highest injury rates. Consider the possibilities: snowblower mishaps, windigo maulings, overheated saunas, collisions between balaclava-wearing cyclists and low-flying geese. And perhaps other, less common misfortunes. The thousand shocks that flesh is heir to, yada yada yada. But it’s not just the flesh, is it? Oh, no my beauties. Winter will surely sink its diamond dog teeth into your soul, as well as your glutes, if you don’t take precautions. Mid-November through to Spring: a multi-month smorgasbord of shadow and light, tinsel and hailstones, magic and shit.
So, with that cheery prospect on the horizon, we must do what we must do to weather the coming months in safety, comfort, and style. Just as we fill our expanding bellies with comfort foods and our bathroom cabinets with bandages and medicines, we must feed and fill our minds and our souls with cerebral and emotional delights. Of course, these delights will take different forms for each of us. Medieval madrigals, Islay single malts, two-tier boxes of Belgian chocolates, visits to botanical gardens, consumption of botanical distractions: choose your poison; whatever gets you through the long cold nights.
Doing my part, I have prepared a brief and highly random list of some admittedly -non-essential-but-possibly-life-saving soul-care items, to be stored in a safe dry space in your snowed-in home:
Balm for cuts and scratches to the heart:
- The jewel-like lyrics of Joanna Newsom, made even more beautiful and haunting by her ethereal harp-based music.
- The film Amelie, or anything by Hitchcock or Fellini.
- Going to Chinatown to buy incense and barbecued duck.
Bandages for the psyche:
- The diaries of Anais Nin, or anything by Dylan Thomas or Virginia Woolf
- Walking through snow filled woods.
- Fortune telling or board games by candlelight.
Ointments for the imagination:
- Maria Callas, John Coltrane, Marlene Dietrich, Junior Wells, and Bob Dylan on vinyl.
- Reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.
- Stealing an overhead projector from a high school, and putting on a shadow show.
Powders for the heightening of pleasures:
- Wearing Venetian leather carnival masks because it’s Friday night.
- Installing a disco ball in your living room.
- Dancing on the frozen river in high heels, as you howl at the moon.
Any first aid tips of your own? I would dearly love to hear them! Life is short, but winter is long. The doctor is all ears.