Surviving Farch

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.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Here Farch is the time of year I hope I can finally use that wheel set I built with studded tires. Every year I air them up at the end of January and hope for an ice storm. This is the third year without an ice storm so I am hoping I get lucky. Damn Texas weather.

    1. Colleen says:

      Three years without an ice storm. Amazing! You built your own tire set–double amazing.

  2. raych says:

    Fuck you, soups. I used to love you.

    This is my first Winter as well as my first Winter With A Baby, Who Objects to Frostbite. I am like, Ugh. HOWEVER, I expect this to be the happiest late-April/early-May of my life. Also, the other day it was minus-two and I was like, Oh! Balmy out.

    I have come so far.

    1. Colleen says:

      I still love soups but in a sort of nostalgic “I used to love you SO MUCH MORE way”. By October, though, the romance will be rekindled.

      You moved to Calgary, right? Nothing like really going for it–you might have eased into having winter by trying Toronto or something first. šŸ™‚

  3. House Husband says:

    NIce: the sub-mitten. This is solved, of course, by slipping the sheath and squeezing your frozen thumb in your fist. Bad advice for the ten year-old boy who’s just watched Daniel stand up to Johnny Lawrence and win. You can try and punch out the bully, but in a Canadian Farch, you could sprain your thumb real bad. True story.

    1. Colleen says:

      Freak. I’m sending you to bed with no dinner.

  4. heidenkind says:

    Farch is the longest stretch of the year, although it has my favorite holiday (Valentine’s Day). And Mardi Gras. But then there’s THE ENTIRE REST OF THE MONTH. Uhg.

    1. Colleen says:

      No Mardi Gras here…but we have a newish holiday here, Family Day. So at least there’s one long weekend in this slushy mess.

  5. Tony says:

    37 degrees C here today – I suspect Farch is not much of an issue down here šŸ˜‰

    1. Colleen says:

      Well, you have other challenges. Like heat stroke. That seems like it might be annoying too.

  6. Alex says:

    But I’m allergic to chocolate! What can I do?

    1. Colleen says:

      Rage, rage against the dying of the light?

      Or, try carob.

  7. Stefanie says:

    I was just thinking this morning as I was bundling up to go catch the bus in -9F (-23C) how tired I get this time of year, tired of the coat and the scarf and the hat and the mittens and the boots and how gosh darn long it takes to put them all on only to still be cold when the wind goes gusting right through it all. Farch, how I loathe you. It’s great of you to go out for run. I know those looks you got from when I have biked in similar weather. Real hot chocolate is indeed always awesome. We use vanilla sweetened soy milk and leave out the maple syrup and sometimes we add a bit of mint extract for an extra special treat.

    1. Colleen says:

      OH MY GOD, MINT EXTRACT!!! You are a genius. A genius. I’m trying this asap.

      1. Stefanie says:

        heh, hope you like it!

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