Monday, December 27, 2010

Boxing Day on the Beach

At last! Twenty-four hours after arriving on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) and having completed the prerequisites to getting settled in, I was able to make my way along the grey cedar boardwalk from the hotel to the broad band of beach on the chilling Atlantic Ocean. As soon as my shoes hit the sand I was reminded of the striking softness of beach colours, taupe wet sand, blue-grey water, white and grey seagulls, all under the massive dome of an endless sky. I had forgotten how marvellous gold looks upon a beach background. Either way I looked, to the left or to the right, the beach was interminable, rounding distant corners beyond which I could no longer see. The vastness of the beach invited me to travel ever further, as far as the large American flag flapping in the distance and still more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shortest Day of the Year

The defining characteristic of Canadians at this time of year is survival. Never mind the bright Christmas lights and tinselled trees; this is an undisguised hostile environment. Everything currently conspires against us, the snow, the darkness, the cold, the damp air, the slush and the general mess of the surroundings. It is only the most enthusiastic of our number who contemplate doing anything out-of-doors. The prospect is forbidding, best reserved for those who insist upon taking their constitutional whatever the circumstances “on Christmas Day or Doomsday”. The rest of us keep an eye upon the calendar and measure the days with greater acuity than an alienated J. Alfred Prufrock with his coffee spoons. We know only too well that today marks the Winter Solstice, and that means that things can only get better.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Trust Your Instincts

On a certain level adherence to one’s instincts is almost pathological, smacking as it does of compulsive behaviour and irrationality. It’s as though instinct were a substitute for thinking, not exactly what all that education we’ve had has taught us to do. On the other hand I have yet to meet anyone who dismisses the value of acting upon one’s gut reactions even though at times the practice is elevated to the extreme of psychic analysis (“voices from the past” and that sort of thing). Barring however telepathy and clairvoyance, I have increasingly come to view intuitive behaviour as the best guide, by far more shrewd, insightful and discerning than the alternative (rational deduction). This may at first appear to be an irresponsible vote in favour of impulse but this is to ignore the depth of the morass in which so-called natural feelings operate. Instinct is after all the instantaneous culmination of years of experience, often hard won on the battlefield not in the classroom. To suggest otherwise is the equivalent of saying that it is the key which makes a car run. Certainly a key when properly positioned sets things in motion, but it is all that other stuff behind the dashboard and under the hood which make it happen. Likewise a well-practiced intuition motivates the deeper behavioural decisions. Let’s face it if you start by heading in the wrong direction, you’re done. That’s what instinct does - it gets you going in the right direction, even if you don’t know why at the time or even if it takes longer to prove itself correct. It is for that reason as well that one must train oneself to trust one’s instincts because often there is nothing other than that trust to sustain the validity of one’s hunch.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Christmas Express

About this time of year things progress fairly rapidly I find. Initially, in the first few days of December, we gradually adjust to the advent of winter weather, an enforced adjustment which becomes more persistent with each passing day. However it is not long before we’re convinced that winter really has arrived and that it is safe to begin counting the days to either the Winter Solstice or Spring, whichever helps.

What abruptly occurs as we approach the middle of the month, however, is the sudden realization that Christmas is upon us and all that that entails. People in the street begin wishing one another a Merry Christmas and many are prompted to shake hands with one another. It is a time of communal outpouring of charity and good wishes. The process is helped along by the trickle of Christmas cards which also materialize with increasing regularity. People commence muttering about the times during which their business offices are closed over the holidays. Some are captured in the post office assembling large packages in brown paper. There really is a hustle and bustle in the air.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Upon arising and drawing the drapes this morning, a heedless glance out my frozen bedroom window reminded me what a desolate place Canada can be in the winter. On these normally cloudy days everything is dull - grey and brittle branches on the trees, forlorn snow on the grass and fields beyond, even the evergreens look faded and bleak, somehow tarnished. The barren and austere appearance is compounded by the mixture of filthy salt and dirty brown sand which now litters our roadways. It is so inhospitable.