At 5:00 p.m. it is solidly dark on Wolfe Island.
At 5:00 a.m. it was also solidly dark. I was driving the long, straight stretch of highway 401, between Windsor and London, Ontario.
We didn’t intend to celebrate the Winter Solstice with a marathon drive through every form of precipitation, but in the end, we did; ending our circumnavigation by sliding (literally) into home base seconds ahead of bad weather and two days ahead of our original plans.
If you’re in North America, you’re aware of the great storms sweeping from the mountains, across the prairies and then circling the wagons around the Great Lakes to paint the shores in great, glistening sheets of ice. If your not, be thankful for the relative warmth and have a cup of sunshine for me.
We rolled out of Bloomington, Indiana in the kind of rain that Noah’s boys would have made note of, around 8:00 last evening, having thoroughly feted our beautiful goddaughter. Nothing says “Sweet 16” like balloons and flowers the colours of raspberry and orange sherbet, cotton candy tinted glitter, a punch fountain, three tiers of cupcakes and a DJ pumping out music that makes anyone over 26 wince just a little bit. It was a party worthy of our lovely girl. She was surprised, to say the least.
16 hours later we crunched through ice, over half an inch thick, picking our way, gingerly, into the big log house we cobbled together the summer I turned thirteen. She smiled as I turned the door handle. She has been waiting for me.
I won’t beleaguer the point, but suffice to say that it rained Bloomington to Detroit. There was heavy fog Detroit to Toronto. From Oshawa (just past Toronto) to the Wolfe, we crept along, about 40 km an hour counting slide offs and reminding the children what real snow plows look like.
Flags are frozen stiff to their poles. The fingertips of evergreens are completely encased in tombs of ice, like Han Solo stuck to the wall. The ice is so thick over the snow that the boys can walk on it. My Dad, rugged up in his Afghan herder’s hat, scarves, layers of jackets and leather gloves was found easing his way across the glare at the ferry dock, shopping bags slung over his arm, testing each foothold with the metal tip of the ox goad he uses as a winter walking stick. Apparently he was eager to see the kids.
Grammy is, as advertised: giggly, a little weepy, and exclaiming continually over the size increase in her babies. Fresh bread came out of the oven. Soup is on the stove. Tea was in the tea pot. A fire is lit. She has clearly been anticipating our arrival. For months.
Bluejays are picking at the big pottery feeder under the pergola and chickadees are nibbling gratefully at the suet block. Gabe and Gramps have been down to the river to check the ice. The boys are embroiled in a death match of the board game “Life.” Hannah and Tony are sleeping.
The sun has set. I have had my nap. The Christmas tree is lit. I have a cup of tea. All is well. Somehow, the shortest day of the year has felt like one of the longer ones, but the ends do seem to justify the means.