Friday, October 31, 2014

Thoughts on Halloween

It is Halloween today, the turning of the wheel of the year into the cold, fallow season. This time of year makes me think of hurrying home in the gathering dark, walking along the edges of the sidewalks so that I might kick through fallen leaves, and hear their papery rustle beneath my feet. It makes me think of potted mums, dried corn stalks and bales of straw, of carving pumpkins and eating their seeds, toasted. It makes me think of candles glowing in darkness, of mystery and magic.

I remember Mrs. Cosman, who lived behind the school, giving out candy apples, and my mom driving us over to Nana and Poppa's so they could see our costumes. I remember the last time I went trick or treating with my friends, no parents, and getting lost in an unfamiliar neighbourhood as wet snow began to fall, and, a little older, watching Halloween over and over on Pay Per View, in the dark. I remember how my mom always had two bowls of candy: in one, the good stuff reserved for the little kids; in the other, packages of gum for the older kids.

Hay rides, haunted houses, heavy wool sweaters: all these memories come from Ontario, from my childhood and teenage years. Here in the Yukon, the rustle of fallen leaves underfoot has long been replaced by the crunch of snow: there is a foot of snow outside now. All of the things that I associate with this time of year are buried, muffled by snow. This is not the descent into winter: we are already well into that season. Even after almost 10 years here, I still struggle to incorporate these wildly unbalanced seasons into my psyche. 

I don't feel particularly festive today. My kids are not dressing up. The logistics of going to town just to collect candy I don't want them to eat are too great for me. I worry I'm depriving them of some essential part of childhood, but then again, they're young still. Perhaps a bonfire tonight in the yard, if we can uncover the fire pit.

Do any of you mark this day with something other than costumes and candy? I'd love to hear what this time of year means to you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mama, are you happy?

I get asked this question every day, several times a day. By my three year old. It is unnerving, but it also serves as an interesting check-in.

He asks it if he senses anger or irritation or sadness in me. Rarely does he ask it when I am actually in a moment of joy. It makes me pause every time he asks, because I'm never quite sure how to answer. I don't think he means it in a general sense. He means it in the moment, the only thing that exists for a three year old. And usually when he asks, I am not particularly happy in that moment. I hate to tell him that: "No, I'm not happy" because he seems to take it personally. He's told me, tearfully: "Mama, I just want you to be happy!"

That absolutely breaks my heart.  It is too much for a three year old to be concerned with his mother's happiness. I start to worry that this last year, which has been such a struggle for me mentally and emotionally, has somehow had an effect on him. And really, how could it not? We spend all of our time together. He's seen me at my absolute lowest. I just hope I can minimize the damage, or at least give him some perspective.

So, when he asks me "Mama, are you happy?" I try to let him know that what I'm feeling is my own, and not his, burden to carry. I tell him that I'm tired, or that I'm frustrated because or that I just need to get out of the house. Aedan constantly asking me to examine my mental state helps me to not completely lose it. It reminds me to examine what's going on in my head, to look at the reason behind why I am reacting the way that I am. It holds me accountable.

I do love the times when I can tell him, honestly, that yes, I am happy. And when I ask him the same question, his standard answer always makes me laugh:

"Aedan, are you happy?"
"I am just a little bit sad because I lost my t-rex."

(It's taking him a long time to get over that one.)

Some days it drives me crazy, the constant asking of that question, but at the same time, I've come to be so grateful for it. He really is my little guru.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The woodpile

If "getting your moose" defines fall in the Klondike, then "getting in your wood" certainly defines winter. Whether you have your own woodlot and cut it yourself, or (like us) you order it from one of the commercial woodcutters in the area; whether you prefer birch or spruce, fire-kill or clean, bucked or bucking it yourself, getting in a few cords of wood is hugely important around here. So many of us at least partially heat our homes with wood heat. Here on the Dempster, it's our only source of heat, and our woodpile is looking mighty fine these days.

We order our wood from a guy named Doug. We've spent the last couple of days bucking (cutting the logs to stove length with a chainsaw), splitting and stacking several cords of wood. It feels good to see all those neatly stacked logs: it is a warm, secure feeling. 


Saturday, October 18, 2014

A moment's peace

It's not been the best of days for me. Full of self-doubt and self-loathing. 

But now, as darkness begins to fall, I sit in a pool of lamplight listening to Chopin while Colm sleeps in my lap. Outside, it has started to snow. P and Aedan have made a bonfire and I can hear the wood popping. Soon, they'll come inside, and we'll have a simple dinner of pea soup and toast. And then it will be bedtime, and tomorrow will be different again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Colm is 1!

My sweet little Collie-saur,

I can't believe you've already been with us for a year, and yet it feels like you've been with us forever. 

With your sparkling blue-grey eyes and your silly little laugh, you bring so much joy to our family. You are such a good-natured little boy; through the very worst of your eczema, through all the rough times with your big brother, you still smile so easy. You wake up smiling every morning (unless you've been woken up too soon) and that smile carries you through the day.

You can be quite serious, too, watching me or Aedan with your curious gaze, your mouth drawn into a pout of concentration. You take the work of packing and unpacking things very seriously indeed, putting all the blocks you can fit into your little shape-sorter. You like to pack and unpack yourself, too, into baskets and boxes.

I think you're going to be a little dare-devil, like your Auntie Brea was, only because you seem to want to do whatever it is that your big brother is doing. Leaping over the back of the couch? Sliding down rocky slopes to the pond's edge? You are all too eager for these things, and you're not even walking yet!

In the last couple of months you are finally taking more than a passing interest in food. You don't seem to be much of a breakfast man, but you love chicken and turkey and tofu, hummus, noodles, rice and beans. You seem mildly interested in vegetables but you won't give fruit the time of day. Except for that one time, when you ate three blueberries. You love drinking water, especially from Mama's cup, and you're fast learning how to handle a cup by yourself. 

You like turning the pages of books but don't seem to care about hearing the story. The dogs make you laugh. You love crawling and tumbling all over our big bed, and you're even starting to rough-house with your brother--or at least, you seem to be a willing participant in his rough play. It scares the crap out of me, but I try to follow your lead. 

You clap and you wave and you're just a delight. We love you so much, Colm Ferguson, and I can't imagine our family without you.

Happy 1st birthday, little love!