December 13th, 2009:
C-c-c-cold! -31° as I write this, and it’s been colder during the day. With the wind, the weather people are gasping breathlessly about wind chills below -40°.
Today is Doreen’s birthday. We celebrated by having oatmeal porridge for breakfast, then Doreen made a hot pot chicken stew for supper that was delicious, especially with home-made bread.
I am patting myself on the back – I bought Doreen’s birthday present several days ago; I never did get around to wrapping it, but it came in a bright red plastic bag so I tied a piece of Velcro around the neck and presented it to her. I couldn’t find the ribbon. Birthday gifts are something I don’t usually get around to, sort of like Christmas gifts. I have that one beat this year, too.
Doreen never quite finishes her Christmas shopping. She has been “finished” for weeks now, yet just about every day she thinks of something else she just has to get. Today was no exception, so we visited a few stores. I’m resigned to being the patient chauffeur, so I sit out in the car doing crossword puzzles while she shops. That way, we’re both happy.
We went to the Co-op for coffee with our friends last Tuesday; it was -30° with some wind. It seemed like a long way from the car to the door. While we were there, a large group of kids assembled outside, then almost froze us out as they came into the café. They were all bundled up, and all had backpacks, and they were really frosty about their faces. There were two adults with them and one of them came over to our table to explain what was going on. Her name was Shelley Leffler, a teacher at a local school. There were twenty eight kids, fourteen girls and fourteen boys, all in Grade 8. They weren’t selected by their academic prowess but by a genuine interest in their environment.
A bus had dropped them off at Willowgrove that morning; when we saw them, they had been walking around Willowgrove for two hours, then over to the Co-op. They were having a bathroom break and warm-up at the Co-op, and some popcorn. Then they were walking to Silver Spring, about a mile away to the west, and were going to tour that area. They were to spend the night at the Silver Spring School, which is about a mile north of Attridge. They carried everything they needed in their backpacks, including sleeping bags.
They hike and camp all seasons of the year, including doing some orienteering. I suspect they learn as much about themselves as they do about the environment. They miss a lot of classes on these treks, but Shelley says kids that have done it in the past do very well when they move on to high school.
We were appalled that they would be out in such savage weather, but I must say the kids didn’t look as if it were giving them any trouble. Then we thought back to when we were kids; we would play outside all day no matter how cold it was, and the outdoor clothes we had were nowhere near as effective as modern gear. I walked ¾ of a mile to school when I started, back in Winnipeg, and I can’t ever remember taking a day off because of the temperature. Most of the others at our table were country kids and walked a mile or more to school. It’s not the kids who have gotten soft – it’s the adults’ minds.
In case I don’t get around to writing a column next week, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you! We are going to have a little family around for Christmas and a lot for New Year, so I may not feel like wasting visiting time on the computer.