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A winter event of no fixed duration

Blog of the Week: Winnipeg O' My Heart

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I am a big fan of Douglas Coupland's earlier books, and Life After God is one of my favourites. In one particular passage from the Patty Hearst chapter, the narrator is talking to his brother about a neighbourhood dog named Walter who died of a broken heart after one of his owners died. His brother gives him a new way to look at the situation:

"He said that duration doesn't mean anything to a dog. Whether you go to the corner store for 10 minutes or you go to Hawaii for two weeks, all your dog experiences during your absence is a 'sadness event' of no fixed duration. 'One hour... two weeks -- it's all the same to your dog. Walter suffered and was miserable, but not the way a person would have suffered.' "

In the midst of this relentless winter, I keep coming back to this passage and applying it to winter. A winter event of no fixed duration. Normally I'm not one to talk much about the weather -- because we have zero control over it, I kind of find it a pointless subject and not worth much brain space. I have so rarely looked at the forecast these last few months that when people start talking about weather to me, it usually is actually news to me and therefore sometimes even interesting!

But truly, this year has just been crazy. My massage therapist, who lives and works in my neighbourhood, told me the word on the street is someone is gonna get beat up soon if this weather lasts much longer -- people are that out of sorts about it. I laughed, but it's probably true. Especially with having little kids, this winter has been very hard. Most of the time it's just been too cold to be outside at all. And inevitably when it's not too cold, we're sick. We can't win.

Still, even though we're all close to the end of our ropes, it seems futile to even get any ideas of when it will start to warm up. I guess I'm not the only person whose winter has been never-ending. Meagan Francis is one of my favourite bloggers/podcasters and her recent post: "Why winter is like early motherhood (and why it's best to surrender to both)" struck a chord with me for this very reason. Meagan, who lives in upper Michigan, writes:

"When I was a newer mom, I was like I usually am in February: irrationally hopeful. Every time the baby would take a longer-than-usual nap or sleep through the night, every time I'd make it through Target without a single wail or blown-out diaper, I'd think that maybe we'd moved on from the no-sleeping stage or the crying-in-stores stage or the blowing-out-of-diapers stage.

And then, the next time I was holding a wide-awake baby at 3 a.m. or trying to shush a screaming baby in the checkout line at the grocery store or wondering how to get a completely poop-filled Onesie off over a baby's head in a department-store bathroom without creating an even bigger mess, I'd get that familiar twinge of disappointment. Oh. It's not really over yet, is it?

It wasn't until the third baby that I learned to completely surrender to baby-ness and stop waiting for the less-fun phases to pass (maybe because by then I understood that when one not-so-fun phase passes, there is always another to take its place, anyway.) Much like how, this winter, I didn't bother keeping an eagle eye on the forecast because I knew it would be just more of the same, with my third baby I stopped watching so anxiously for signs of development, of progress. I knew progress would come in its own sweet time, and that probably the less I obsessed over it the faster it would seem to come."

Yep. No point being irrationally hopeful that the temperatures will pick up any time soon, or that this snow will be gone in short order. We live in Winnipeg. This has been a year of records, but really, deep down, are any of us truly shocked at this winter's intensity?

So do not despair. Winter will be here until it is gone. Stay warm in the meantime!


Emma Durand-Wood has now endured almost six Winnipeg winters but still doesn't own a decent pair of gloves. She blogs at and

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2014 A10

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