The last week of the year has always been my favourite even when the temperature drops, melting the woodpile like ice cream in July, storms keep all but the hardiest indoors, and snow banks block the front door.
The week feels relaxed. All the gifts have been distributed. Visitors have come and gone leaving only cheerful memories from another holiday season.
And bills are paid until a new round of expenses arrive – vehicle insurance in the spring, property taxes the end of June, and fire insurance in the fall.
Cooking is minimal with enough leftovers stocking the fridge for many a meal.
Gingersnaps, butter tarts and chocolate fudge wait to go along with cups of coffee as I entertain family, watch TV or read.
Even shovelling snow is a welcome respite from picking my way over icy streets and trails with hidden obstacles, like smooth stones and fallen branches that rise up just enough to trip me.
My dogs enjoy the chance to romp around me as I push snow from the gate.
On the trail, we walk in our separate worlds as each dog explores whatever catches their interest.
If it snows in the evening, I like watching the individual flakes in the outdoor lights as they whirl, dart, and whoosh away on gusts of wind.
I recall one midnight when snow the shape and size of AAA batteries shot past the window like a school of minnows fleeing a shark.
I never saw snow that shape before or since.
January with its sense of a natural beginning is a perfect time to sign up for a correspondence course.
For many years, I routinely enrolled in one of many online courses offered through ed2go.com.
Most courses last for six weeks; their cost is affordable. But I’ve slacked off from signing up this year.
I feel the need to catch up on random reading, something difficult to fit in while still meeting written assignment deadlines.
Reading only a few pages each bedtime takes forever to complete a book.
After eight weeks I’ve reached the last of 375 pages in Erik Larson’s non-fiction work, “In the Garden of Beasts”.
Luckily I was able to renew it once for an extra four weeks.
Written from archived details, the book covers the first years of Hitler’s rise to power ending as he invaded Poland in 1939 and loaded Jews for their final train ride to the concentration camps and gas chambers. A brutal bedtime read.
One notable, incongruous point: while Hitler was exterminating hundreds of non-Aryans on a whim, Germany had stern laws protecting dogs and horses from any sort of abuse. How incongruous.
For starters, I’ve compiled a list of five non-fiction books new at the library since November: Jack Knox’s collection of humorous Victoria Times Colonist columns titled “Hard Knox”; Canadian comic Mike Myers’ memoir, “Canada”; Romeo Dallaire’s second volume of dealing with PTSD since serving in Rwanda, “Waiting for First Light”; and Nellie McClung’s suffragist story, “The Valiant Nellie McClung”.
By the time I read those five books, quite likely grass and dandelions will be peeking through the snow; yellow, purple and white crocuses will be blooming at the south corners of the greenhouse; and I’ll have to order more firewood for next winter.
In addition, I’ll be months into another round of family birthdays with greetings to be sent to all as well as gifts for the younger ones.
So for this week, I intend behaving like a teenager, going to bed at midnight, getting up mid-morning, and loafing in between.
Claudette Sandecki observes the world from her Thornhill, B.C. home.