I’ve been feeling a little of the blues these past days. Maybe it’s the grey weather, the cold. We’ve nothing to compare with our eastern counterparts, who’ve had bitter cold and snow already. Still, it’s the relentless blah of winter onset that contributes to the winter blues.
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
— Shakespeare, “That Time of Year,” (Sonnet 73)
Also, as Shakespeare so memorably puts it, it’s the relentless march of time. It closes in on us, the colours fade, there is much to be done and not enough time to do it. Summer optimism and vigour are gently falling away. No longer when “time let me hail and climb, golden in the heydays of his eyes,” as Dylan Thomas added in his poem, “Fern Hill.”
Time to speak our truths
The items on a to-do list cover part of that anxiety. But life’s checklist also looms. Time to reflect on the meaning of it all, time to spend with loved ones and speak our truths, our love, reflect on our shared lives. I feel some things more inchoate, less defined, unknowable. They rankle. They are a source of anxiety without clear lines or shapes. They thump at the door, and I am afraid to answer.
The Salish Sea, practically at our doorstep, is choppy and white-capped. The wind howls in the eaves. Leaves scutter across the lawn and driveway. I struggle to get a flame in Mildrith’s hearth. The elements conspire against us, this time of year, threatening to snuff out our flimsy victories.
Gratitude and reflection
And yet, there is much to be grateful for. This is a year in which the Happy Monk Baking Company was launched and grew into a small, but viable enterprise on Pender Island. A community of bread lovers and those who’ve seized upon our commitment to organic, flavourful, hearth-made loaves.
We have thrilled to the authentic flavour of wheat and sourdough. We have experienced bread as it was meant to be: food that nourishes and makes connections around the family table. Bread that eschews the scourges of “Wheat Belly” and gluten intolerance and high glycemic indices.
We introduced 28 different Baker’s Choice loaves this past year, added to our stalwart loaves week-to-week, the Salish Sourdough, and the Seed Feast. We’ve had Rye in many forms from orange-hinted to seeded and spiced. We’ve trotted out breads made with ancient grains, including Einkorn and Spelt. Many of our loaves used Red Fife wheat, a variety that Canada’s reputation as the “breadbasket of the world” was built upon.
A cob oven risen from Pender earth
It has been a year of making new friends. It has been a year of learning. It has been a year of doing something real for the first time in my life. Building a cob oven out of Pender earth and stone and wood, baking over a thousand loaves of bread, feeding and nourishing a Happy Monk community.
I used to take acupuncture treatments from a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She would smile when I told her I was feeling the blues at this time of year. She’d say winter is a time to slow down, reflect on your health, replenish energy, conserve strength. “All your energy is just momentum, and it’s slowing down now.”
Poor old Eddie Cochran, who despaired, in his song, that there was no cure for the “Summertime Blues.” He’s roiled with youthful energy, parents and bosses are stopping him at every turn from having fun. He considers taking his problem to the United Nations, then …
Well, I called my congressman and he said, quote:
‘I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote!‘
What’s a young man to do? Eddie Cochran left behind a significant body of great songs before he died in a car accident at age 21. His energy lives on to this day in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This, too, shall pass …
But it’s winter, now, and we’re talking about the Wintertime Blues. Better to live in harmony with the season. The dark evenings and mornings of this time of year urge warmth and the indoors. The sound of a fire crackling in the woodstove is nourishing. I crave slow-cooked soups and stews. Sweaters and a blanket and a cocoon of warmth.
The birds will sing in their choirs again. The sap will rise in the trees, the plants will push out of the earth. Life will renew itself. And so will this Happy Monk, after a few warm winter sleeps!