The Prairies are kind of magical, even if most of us who live here don't want to admit it. As a young person, those born in the heart of Canada sort of hate the Prairies. We think they're bland, lacklustre, and incredibly cold. There's nothing to do here but build fires, wear layers and stare out at the infinite horizon. To transformed prairie folk, this sounds amazing, but it takes us a while to get there. It's weird - as we age, this fondness for the golden fields and rolling hills covered in hay bales starts to creep in. Seeing people owning their Sorels and toque hair in the winter is endearing, and it always gets a nod from fellow prairie folk. The cold becomes a symbol for our attributes and a nesting ground for our greatest ideas. Pink cheeks and wind tousled hair acts as a poster for our culture, and we're always looking for the next best outdoor winter event. Sure, our summers are hot, blue-skyed, and filled with braided beauties, but its our winters that carve into us, making us into the people we are.
Winter is your body's time to recharge. Hibernation serves a grand purpose, and that is to rejuvenate, heal, and conserve. And while we sort of metaphorically climb into a tree to sleep for the entire season, there is something bigger happening beneath the surface. We are pensive, ironic, humble and thoughtful. We grow. We spend quality time with the ones we love. We survive. Endure.
This time to retreat inward is often misunderstood. We fight it and breed depression in the cooler months, sitting beneath our SAD lamps for an hour a day, and wearing little flats when the four feet of snow call for winter boots. We fight and fight, resist, and miss out on the growth that doing this inner work accomplishes. It's necessary to retreat. It's necessary to bundle up, protect yourself, dwell, ponder and take precautions toward the weather. Too blustery outside? Just stay home with a warm mug of coffee, a big sweater and a fire, even if it is just on the TV. Trudge over to your friends place by foot when the roads are closed, and wear your pink cheeks and sweaty hair with pride. This is so Canadian, and this is so community-building. There is an unspoken understanding during this time; a culture that begs to be embraced.
Spring is symbolic for rejuvenation, but the time burrowed underground is necessary to come full circle. The magic of fall and reaping the harvest in preparation for the dark mornings and short cold days is also part of the process. Derek and I were driving down the highway to our new home in the woods, and we noted the folded little wooden sign on the side of the road declaring fall supper at the community hall. We found ourselves asking, why do we have fall suppers? But they're symbolic of this preparation - this time to prepare for really doing the work you need to do on yourself, feeling all your feelings and not judging yourself for that. Not fighting. Gather with your community, eat and be merry, and bring in all the food and ideas you grew over spring and summer.
And with winter, retreat. Come inside. Embrace the blizzard happening outside and inside yourself. Give your body a chance to process all the feelings, thoughts and experiences you had over the year. Turning them over in your hands as if they were malleable will help you to better understand them, and in turn better understand yourself, making your next year even better. Getting you closer to your soul self.
Every February, we have something called Festival du Voyageur, which translates to the Traveller's Festival. It's dedicated to a time in Canadian culture where voyageurs portaged through the country, trading goods, building camaraderie and having a means of survival. At Festival du Voyageur, snow sculptures decorate the land, the ground is covered is the best smelling wood chips, and you can get caribou (a mulled wine beverage) almost anywhere - even places where they serve cortados and london fogs. Some of the greatest live folk bands fill the air with their instruments and voices, and people of all ages come out to celebrate, dance, shop, skate, toboggan and explore. All wear their fur, red ceinture flechee, Sorels or moccasins, toques and giant mittens, carefully trying to drink from a thermos that holds something hot and typically alcoholic. Even at 10AM. All woes and care seem to vanish out the window, and we are truly free. True North free.
This festival is one of my favourite events throughout the year - a celebration of French and Metis culture, and a playing field of who can spot the most Hudson's Bay stripes on prairie folk. At Festival du Voyageur, everyone seems to embrace the winter - not fight it - and we are all better for it. We work with what we have.
You can travel the world but you won't find another place like the Canadian Prairies. And while most places have their own special magic, the Prairies hold mine. Like true, sarcastic and self-deprecating prairie folk, Derek and I were shocked when we read that the National Geographic had declared our home one of the best places to visit on earth. It's easy to fall back in stride with the prairie mindset of "we are nothing special" but the Prairies are like a beautiful and charming unassuming woman who has no idea how stunning and bewitching she is. Of course this place makes the list. How could it not? We are the little spark on the prairie. The golden flame. We are the heart. And we are lucky enough to get four seasons here, winter making us who we are.