Reflections on a short day

Where do squirrels go in winter?  Their legs are really small, so there’s no way they can head all the way to Florida to sit on the beach sipping tiny cocktails, with even tinier paper umbrellas.

It’s reached that time in our Canadian visit (you know, three days in) when I start “fixin stuff”.  The hardware store is only a few blocks away, so I walk, which in turn gives me time to look at the world and reflect on really important questions, like squirrels.

My morning goes like this.  We get up around 7:00, and complain that it’s just wrong that it’s completely dark outside.  Ok, I understand the whole seasons thing, after all, we have seasons in Australia.  But here, oh no, mere seasons aren’t good enough, they have Seasons with a capital S.  Kirsty tries to explain – “It’s all about balance. Summer is short, so the days are really long – winter is long, so the days are really short.  See?  It all balances out.”

8:15 is drop off at the nearby elementary school.  Just like the schools near home, some parents arrive uber-early so they can grab the prime parking spots, while others, well, don’t.  What’s different is that these kids amuse themselves before class by dashing about in the half-light playing games like “how far can you slide on the icy asphalt before you fall over” and “who can make the most steam if we all run around like crazy.”

Then, it’s just a quick drive to drop David at the Skytrain station and I’m back home ready to start my “special projects”.   Today’s challenge is to install not one, but two new light bulbs in the kitchen range hood.  Did I hear a snicker out there?  Simple you say?  Well, let me tell you – first, you have to work out how to remove that little plastic cover that’s always covered with a couple of generations of congealed grease from meals long past, then, you have to find the right tools, because the metal base thingy always breaks off from at least one bulb when you try to unscrew it (and there’s that the little niggling doubt about whether the power switch is really off while you’re digging around with the broken pieces).  But, I digress.

Anyways, here I am, walking to the hardware store to buy what I hope will be the right bulbs to make all things bright again in the culinary world.  It’s not too cold, so I only need a level 5 jacket and a touque to keep warm.  (Aussies –  a touque, pronounced toook, is a knitted hat that we more correctly call a beanie.  Canadians – I wasn’t sure how to spell it, so I checked and found that you guys actually needed a survey to agree on the spelling, and touque won!).  Ah, sorry, I digress again.

So, I’m strolling along in coat and touque, looking at the grey sky and feeling a bit sorry that the blackberry bushes beside the path are not only devoid of the tangy morsels I feasted on last summer, they’ve also lost almost all of their thick spiky leaves.  I reach my favourite blackberry picking spot and wonder whether I should stop for old times’ sake.  I definitely don’t want to risk getting home after sunset (4pm), but it’s only about 10:30 so I reckon I can afford to linger for a moment.

To my surprise, there’s little movements all through the thorny thicket.  Here and there, tiny birds are flitting soundlessly about.  It’s a bit eerie to see, but not hear them, but I guess they’re saving their energy for spring.  Then, equally silent, a fat little black squirrel flits down a trunk and scampers back through the leaf litter.  It doesn’t have a coat, or a touque, but it’s still here.  I realise now that the squirrels don’t actually go anywhere in winter.  Maybe we just forget to see them.

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