Song for a Winter’s Night

I sit here tonight, in the midst of the pause before the last frenzy, on the longest night of the year, or, as I like to call it, the most star-filled evening. The year is in its final throes and everyone’s thoughts are somewhere else.

I can’t help but think of last year, and then the fifty or so years I can remember that preceded it. There is a rhythm to these days, but one that alters each year, usually imperceptibly; sometimes, much faster. There is nostalgia for those Christmases of my childhood as portrayed in photos, but mostly, the years blur into each other like an impressionistic painting, all layering on top of each other like one of those lenticular photographs.

This has been the most transformative year in my life in over a decade and a half. I cannot overemphasize its significance, the blooming of revelations about myself that have grown from seeds sown many years ago.

A year ago, I was burnt out in one part of my life, but intensely flourishing in others. Now, the balance has been restored; perhaps the one candle does not burn so intensely, but instead, a low fire has been kindled, stoked, and fuels me going forward. I no longer feel bifurcated, divided into the person I must be and the person I actually am.

A winter storm awaits somewhere to the west, and we quiver in anticipation and foreboding. In this last crisp, clear night, the shoppers scurry, but the Christmas lights seem to twinkle ever more intensely in response. The air is thick with so many worries, but yet the vastness of the universe seems to dissipate it all, if we will let it.

Tonight, I will let it. Time is not limitless, but on one midnight blue night, I can let it pass, treasuring it as it slips through my fingers like silken threads, embroidering the future. I can see the shapes I have planned, but the form, the blending, the details are not yet there. I must trust the process, must rejoice in the unfinished in its becoming, when what will be is only an idea in my mind of what could be.

The Nutcracker last week was everything I hoped it would be. From start to end, it was magic–but a particular kind of romanticized Russian magic, full of rich carved wood and deep colours, of moonlit backdrops and snowball fights and steaming samovars. The revised libretto still tells a story of a magical nutcracker, battles with rats, and a journey to the land of the sweets, but Herr Drosselmeyer becomes Uncle Nikolai and his magical toys become a dancing horse and a pair of bears; the ball becomes a barn party; Clara and Fritz become Marie and Misha, and the older Peter will eventually become the Nutcracker Prince. In this version, both siblings, constantly squabbling, go on the journey to the Land of the Sweets after the rats are pacified. The Nutcracker Prince has a thing for the Sugar Plum Fairy (and is rewarded in the end). Instead of some sort of ersatz Chinese dance, that segment is given over to a chase between some tiny chefs and the chickens they are attempting to catch for dinner. The Waltz of the Flowers has a spectacular part for a dancer representing a bee. The costumes were absolutely incredible and very, very Russian, as were the architectural settings. And the orchestra–live music just adds so much to the wonder of the work. I’m so glad it finally happened this year.

There have also been more simple moments of magic over the last week or so. The office Christmas party was an afternoon affair at the Arcadian Court, with a similar menu to what we had at my old workplace, but with the bonus that we didn’t have to pay for tickets for this one. There was swag (the 100 or so of us who’d joined in the past year got jerseys with our names on them, and everyone got a little pot with basil seeds to plant–in keeping with our logo, which features a leaf). There were Dad jokes from the CEO. There was a free drink plus wine with the meal. It was just all so relaxed, and I felt a genuine connection with the table of people I was sitting at–not that odd feeling of not quite fitting in I’m so used to. Had a 1-1 with my manager today–we’re right at the 2-month mark–and it sounds like there are no concerns about me passing my probationary period; we talked about plans going forward from there and it was very much a collegial kind of meeting. I think that’s what I like most about this new job: It’s far less hierarchical and more collaborative than I am used to, and that suits me perfectly.

I’ve also enjoyed being around the Eaton Centre during the holidays, although maybe my wallet has not. I found a perfect double-breasted wool herringbone coat there on Monday that came home with me. I was also amused at the “snow show”, where at an appointed time, a couple of snow machines high up in the rafters started blowing flakes all over the centre section of the mall.

Across the street from the mall, the Christmas market at Nathan Philips Square has lured me in for tempura shrimp, beaver tails, and general atmosphere a couple of times.

And I’ve enjoyed visiting other old favourites in their holiday garb.

Last night, there were latkes and small gifties at Free Times Cafe. Today, the annual turkey lunch at the museum. Tomorrow, meeting up in person for a Toastmasters meeting. And then, luckily, no real plans until Christmas Day. In between, we’re expecting a substantial winter storm. Our area doesn’t look like it will get slammed as badly as some others, but we’re getting the food shopping and such done early just in case.

And next week–assuming the luck holds on health–there is an open house, a board game day, and a New Year’s Eve party. Oddly enough, I do not have a dedicated project I’ve been saving up this year. I have some embroidery that’s already underway, and I have some fabric that might need to be a tunic, but nothing I’ve been saving up/planning to do. Although that could change very easily…

Finally: I have discovered the Emerson Quartet, on their farewell tour, is playing Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 12 in Michigan at a festival at the end of June on a Saturday. That might be doable. While that’s not at the top of my list of favourites, they seem to have a list of works they are focusing on for their last concerts, and this was the Shostakovich they chose, so I suspect it will be special. Tickets are not available yet, but I will be watching.