Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today was the northern hemisphere winter solstice of 2008. The actual moment that the sun returned to its northward-ascending node along the ecliptic occurred at 7:04 EST this morning. At 7:04 EST this morning I was still asleep, recovering from the previous two days.

Two days ago, on Friday morning, with a light snow in progress, and a major snowstorm predicted, I headed off to work, intending to take advantage of my non-employee status as a contractor to leave early and avoid the mess (and also shovel out the driveway). Alas, this was not to be -- a problem with a system kept me there until 6:30.

In the morning, the view from the office across the Don Valley Parkway, looking to the southwest, was not promising. Wind and falling snow limited visibility.

As more snow fell, the wind picked it up and made snowdrifts around any obstacles -- like in this picture of the parked car of some poor schlub down in the parking lot. Not my car -- I was afraid to go around to the other side of the building because of what I might see.

Like the rest of the city, things at work started to close down around 3:00. By 3:30, almost everyone was gone. By the time the problem was resolved and I got outside, this was what I saw in the parking lot:

The parking lot had been snow ploughed, but there was an island of snow around my car and that of some stranger who was evidently working even later than me. The drive home wasn't fast but I got there to find a clear driveway from the efforts of Jill and Corwin, who had gone out three times during the course of the day to clear snow.

Shortly after I got home, the city snow plough went by, and I did my bit by shoveling out the comber of snow that the plough had put into the end of the driveway.

Saturday started out sunny but cold -- and fortunately, no snow. Lorna and Michael's Christmas gift this year to Corwin, Cameron, and Robin was a performance of the Pantomime at the Elgin theatre downtown. This year's play was Cinderella.

By early afternoon, we had picked up Cameron and Robin, found parking at a public lot, and hooked up with Lorna and Michael in the lobby of the Elgin. For the rest of the afternoon, theatrical drama worked its magic on young minds. With a curtain time of 2:00, the show was over by 4:30. Although bitterly cold, we enjoyed a Toronto tradition -- looking in the decorated windows of the old Simpson's store, now a Hudson's Bay outlet but still maintaining the Christmas tradition.

Our favourite window was the one that showed a family decorating a Christmas tree, while below the floorboards, a mouse family celebrated their Christmas as well. The mice, however, looked like they went nearly to the man's hip, which prompted much laughter and remarks about "the giant rats of Sumatra" for the rest of the evening.

The day was far from over. For dinner, we went to Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant, where Cameron and Robin's parents, Chris and Liza, joined us. This restaurant, also known as "the Nose" because of the sculpture of a nose on its sign, is in a building which used to be a bank. The vault in the back is both wine storage and a dining area -- it has a table suitable for 10 or 11 people, which can be reserved. Gio Rana's is quite busy, so getting the vault is always nice, because it ensures a relatively quiet dinner away from the main dining room.

And finally, after dinner, all nine of us went to our friend Sarah's housewarming -- or more accurately, condo warming.

Needless to say, sleep came easy to all of us by the time we got home, and we were all oblivious at the moment where the sun poised at its southernmost point and began its trip back toward the northern latitudes.

This morning, we woke to another 15 cm of snow, which of course meant more shoveling, which I did with Corwin.

Shoveling with Corwin carries with it certain inherent parental dangers that involve the possibility of unexpected missiles, lovingly crafted by Corwin from snow, suddenly hitting a body part, accompanied by shrieks of mirth.

Later in the morning, we had dim sum with Madeline and her husband, Mr. Ashby. Food, however, was only a prelude to the geek happiness of getting Mr. Ashby's new computer at Canada Computers at the Pacific Mall.

Observation: due to snow shoveling and dim sum, we arrived at the Pacific Mall after the noon hour. There was no parking in the basement, but we easily found a spot outside -- unheard of for this time of year. Although we initially thought that a combination of weather and the economy was hurting business, we revised that estimation by the time we left -- the mall and the parking lot were packed, as usual.

We got home late in the afternoon, just in time to shovel the 1 or 2 cm of snowfall that had accumulated on the driveway, and to deal with the leavings of the snow plough that had come while we were out.

This was the view from the back yard looking toward the front earlier this evening as the longest night of the year began.

A new year, and new possibilities are just around the corner. Happy Winter Solstice.

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