Friends, it’s almost here–the longest, cruellest month of the year: Farch. (Sorry, Eliot, it’s not April. April is when we remember that we once didn’t loathe existence as either a theory or a practice.)
Farch: known more popularly as the nigh endless period of time spanning February 1st to March 31st. You know what I’m talking about even if you’d like to deny it; this is when we all (and by “we” I mean everyone in Canada and a great deal of the US; also, the snowy and/or interminably rainy parts of Europe. Not Asia; I’ve lived there, and I tell you, it’s bikinis and iced drinks 365 days of the year; don’t let all those beautiful wood block prints of snow on Mount Fuji fool you; that’s just an artistic rendition of mass hallucination brought on by living somewhere too cool to be borne.)
In Canada and the geographical regions referred to above, Farch looks like this (I will paint you a word picture, because it’ll be easier to bear than a photograph of the real thing): the roads are filthy with accumulated salt and dirt and packed snow that’s become denser than a black hole baked into a collapsed bundt cake; the sky, even when it’s sunny, somehow still looks a sort of drab grey-beige all the time, and it often spits tiny icicles made of undiluted malice and stern disapproval at sad people and shivering animals waiting for summer to return; there’s nothing good on tv; stew has become the sole object of your hatred instead of the beloved prodigal it was when it returned to your kitchen the previous November; when socks become, not cozy accoutrements for grateful appendages, but rather nooses choking the last remaining dregs of life out of feet turned unnaturally pale and understandably ashamed of themselves.
That time is almost here. What can we do? Time, tide, and freezing fog wait for no one, no matter how certain we may be that there has been a terrible clerical error of either astronomical or karmic proportions, and we should really have been born in Hawaii.
I recently wrote about having once loved winter. I did, I really did. Nonetheless, I still also feared Farch and its demoralizing commitment to reminding us all that we’re getting above ourselves enjoying the outdoors in December and January like that.
Today, I began a war with Farch. As a preemptive strike and throwing down of the mitten, I kicked it in the back of the head when it wasn’t looking; yes, I’ll pay, but I will also fight back. I went running this morning. This morning when I went running it was -26 C (-14 F for my American friends). I’ve decided that I will like winter again in spite of myself, logic, and Farch.
You know, it was mostly kind of awesome. No, really. I wore a lot of clothes: undertights, superwarm gym teacher pants, two pairs of socks, a tank top, a thin long-sleeved running shirt that wicks away sweat, a very warm turtle-necked running shirt, a wind-breaker, a thick hoodie, a toque, and mittens. The air was so clean! That was huge. And I felt like such a goddamned hero. And I was listening to happy pop songs. All these things together gave me a nearly 5km long endorphin rush, which was totally boss.
What wasn’t totally boss about this morning? My thumbs started to get cold, being as they were all isolated in their own little sub-mittens. And this new weirdness for someone who’s never run in weather this harsh before and really didn’t expect it: my tongue got cold. It’s a cruel biological necessity that one can only get sufficient oxygen while jogging by gawping like a mouth-breather from backwoods Nova Scotia.
But then the pleasure of the endorphins–and the numerous bundled, hunched, and beaten commuters on their way to catch the bus to work who all looked at me like I was insane but also with envy for that insanity–made up for these relatively minor discomforts.
But running outside in dangerously cold temperatures just can’t be everyone’s way of thumbing their nose at Farch. Indeed, it likely won’t be mine the whole way through, since running outside in winter depends on being able to get near clear pavement and if I know Farch (and I do–we’ve fought almost to the death 37 times before), this won’t last. Soon, there’ll be a persistent patina of black ice hidden beneath the grubby salt-snow cocktail and just walking like a nervous 90-year old will be an extreme sport–never mind running, which would be suicidal.
No, the real answer is probably hot chocolate. We can all become understandably sick of stews, and soups, and chilis, and yearn for meals of any sort that might properly be eaten on a balcony or patio. But hot chocolate never gets old. It makes everything seem nicer, less overwhelming. It both soothes and invigorates; unlike tea, though, it doesn’t do this by making one feel calm and a shade more posh. Rather, it does this by reminding us of pretty much every fun thing we’ve either done or thought of doing in cold weather, and when this happens, when we experience this simultaneously nostalgic and hopeful joy, Farch loses just a little of its power. It wilts just a wee bit. It finds it slightly more difficult than it was expecting to lift its giant fists of icy doom and punch us dead in the face.
When I was a kid, I thought the hot chocolate out of a can was the best thing ever invented–you know, the kind with the world’s saddest looking and unaccountably crunchiest little marshmallows? I know better now. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. This is my current favourite (makes two mugs–one for you and one for your current conversation partner):
- 2.5 cups milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
- 1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
- 2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup
Whisk together until smooth and almost boiling in a pan on the stove. (From Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray’s The 30-Minutes Vegan).
That’s it. It’s the bomb. I know this, as I just had some. I also know that combining a reading of Swann’s Way with the drinking of this hot chocolate makes for a happiness that actually transcends that of running in obscenely low temperatures and enjoying it.
Farch may as well give up now; it just can’t win this one. Or it will win because my hubris in writing this post can’t help but bring on a climatological tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I’ll keep you updated.