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The Weather Network
Aug. 19, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Chautauqua neighbours enjoy mini-icewine festival
Submitted photo.

As Robert Service limned in his famous poem “The Spell of the Yukon:”

“The winter! The brightness that blinds you,

The white land locked tight as a drum,

The cold fear that follows and finds you,

The silence that bludgeons you dumb.

NOTL had been under the polar vortex for six days last week. It was not nearly as cold as the Yukon, but it gave most NOTLers something else to whine and moan about. “Man, it’s cold out there.” “This weather is brutal.” “When will it warm up? This is crazy.”

For the first time since 1998, school buses had been cancelled for three days in a row. Buncha’ wimps!

Last Friday evening, returning to my warm and cozy Chautauqua cottage on an icy cold and windless night, I saw a campfire burning in the backyard of my neighbour’s cottage. Lively chatter and laughter drew me to the fence. My watch read 10:30, so the night was young.

The sky was black, the stars were out, and a moon was way up in the clear sky. How could I resist their invitation for a glass of hot mulled Palatine Vidal Ice Wine? Simply put, I couldn’t.

What followed was one of those magical, impromptu experiences that we stumble upon occasionally. Those times with special friends in a special place. Instead of being normal, hiding from the cold, these folks were embracing winter. Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, Grab the Moment!

Iconic Saskatchewan hockey player Gordie Howe often said, “There is no such thing as cold weather. (Pause) Just cold clothing.”

Let me read from “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” by Robert Service:

“And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our clothes beneath the snow,

And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe.”

Dressed in layers, with warm coats, winter boots, toques, scarves and mittens, we were as happy as we were on the Ryerson Park beach last summer.

Party organizer Annette Ronczka, her children Jade and Avery Swanson, and friends Owen, Alvin, Hugo, Fabienne and Jonathan Alliou along with the lovely and rosy cheeked Caroline Murphy had been toasting marshmallows over the crackling campfire earlier in the evening.

As the evening wore on we were speaking in both English and French (Fabienne is a French teacher, Jonathan is from Cameroon, Africa via France) we chatted and laughed and told stories. Laughter has no foreign accent, we proved once more. Raconteurs we were, and our voices seemed to get louder.

Neighbour Ronda Lincoln happened by walking her three pugs Rock, Roll and Elvis. She wanted to stay for a sip and a chat. The dogs wanted to lift their legs on a nearby oak tree. Off they went.

At about midnight, neighbour Ricky Watson arrived home from an Old Timers hockey game, and joined us for a moment. He had to be at work at The Irish Design early the next morning, so he showed great self-discipline and walked home.

The three young lads, Avery, Alvin and Hugo wanted to walk down to Tim Horton’s for a snack. How Canadian. Three teenagers, walking through the snowy evening to Tim’s.

The yard was decorated with candles in homemade ice sculpture candle holders. Annette the creative one had made them using kitchen stuff, like large salad bowls and mugs. And, ice bowling balls, made in balloons, reflecting the flames.

We then recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” reading alternate verses until the Northern Lights lit up the marge of Lake Lebarge. Our evening ending wine toast was a pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon from Scott Robinson Vineyards. Vieux Chateau de Roi 2019. Aged in glass, a Make Yer Own wine shop in a strip mall in Hamilton. Very subtle, with a hint of raspberry and vanilla, and a smoothhand lingering finish.

As a nightcap, we decided to finish off a last bottle of wine. I tried to pour it, but it was frozen after being in a snowbank for two or three hours.

A magic, totally Canadian evening, came to a sudden and unwanted halt.

We are so fortunate to live in Canada in 2019.