Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our dreary winters could use some real brightening up

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I drove around the city the other night to see if any houses still had their Christmas lights on. A few did. The vast majority didn't. Even at this late date after Christmas, I was expecting to see a tree or two still lit up in the window, but there were none. No diehards were willing to keep their Yule love on display for the public to see.

Then again, if they loved Christmas that much, their trees were likely real and up really early, probably in early November. They would be pretty much brown and half dead by now, anyway.

These are the darkest days of winter. The days are long and the temperatures are chilly. We're not seeing too much sun lately, either. I've started hearing people talking about the January and February blahs. I guess that's one thing I like about Christmas. It's difficult not to feel cheered by all the bright lights and music.

Across the street from me, the City of Moncton put up a very nice lit Christmas tree in the park. From just after the Santa Claus Parade until a few days ago, that tree lit up the neighbourhood like a lighthouse. I'm fortunate enough to live in the house just across the street from it, so there was nothing nicer than watching television late at night with all the lights off in the house and my blinds open to let in the light from that nice tree in the park. It was so relaxing.

I'm so glad I bought a house with a park across the street. It's hard to believe that it will be 10 years this May that I moved in. Feels like it was just yesterday. But trust me, look at the walls and it's pretty evident that it's been a decade since the inside of the house was painted. There are lots of scuffs, chips and a few cracks.

In the winter, especially, when the number of people out walking at night is virtually non-existent, looking outside at the snowy empty park is a real pleasure of mine. While the park is used much more in the summer, of course, it's been thankfully quite calm in recent years. Depending on which neighbourhood kids have become teenagers, some years have been better than others, but the last two or three years have been relatively peaceful.

Before long, there'll be a day in February when we all notice that the days are getting longer. There'll be a blizzard and we'll be outside at close to 6 p.m. and it will still be light out. That's when the blahs start to retreat a bit for people . . . when the days get longer and the sun starts to get a bit stronger. While February can be frigid, the longer days are definitely an inevitable sign that Earth is orbiting the sun as it has done for billions of years and that warmth, sunshine and spring are just around the corner.

Until then, however, we'll have to put up with winter. There are those among us who hate it and will complain until their first sunburn of the year. There are others who just love it and spend the entire time outdoors playing, sliding, snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, skating and snowmobiling.

There are those who start up the snowblower at the first sight of a snowflake. Others scrape down their driveway to the bare pave after each flurry. Others do a relatively sloppy job, leave a lot behind but make things passable, while others have to climb over unshovelled banks just to get in their house. I'm one of the quasi-sloppy job people. Everything's shovelled, but I certainly don't scrape right down to the pavement. Why bother? It'll just snow again anyway.

Here's an idea for the city to consider: pick a few city parks and dress them up real pretty for the winter by using lights in the trees. White lights. Red lights. Blue lights. Green lights. Yellow lights. It doesn't really matter. I think it would add some ambiance to local neighbourhoods and cheer things up during the dead of winter. Even if the lights were up for only the months of December through to the end of February, it would be enough to brighten up the place a bit during the worst weeks of winter.

Besides - and speaking completely selfishly - it would give me something cheerful to look at in the evenings when I'm in my living room. I hear so many people talking about how nice the lights at city hall are every year, it's a real shame that we retreat back to lightless doldrums as soon as Santa Claus heads back to the North Pole and the elves go on Employment Insurance until the toy-making business picks up again a few months later.

And is there anything sadder than a Christmas tree at the side of the road? Just a few weeks earlier, it was brought home with much fanfare, watered, taken care of, decorated to the nines and gazed at lovingly while soft holiday music played in the background. The kids would fall asleep while staring at the lights and the unopened presents beneath it. The luscious aroma of the greenery would fill the room.

But then, like some drunken tramp picked up at a seedy bar, it's tossed out undressed, unloved and stripped of its dignity, all the joy it brought earlier now forgotten. A few strands of tinsel blowing in the breeze.

Its needles brown and drying. It just makes you want to crawl into bed and sleep until May.

Winters don't normally get me down and depressed. I'm one of the lucky ones who never gets the winter blahs. While I'm thankful for that, I'm certainly in favour of some sort of "brightening up" efforts. Winter needs more lights. More colour. I think the lights in park trees idea deserves a bit of consideration. Winter needs a bit of panache, don't you think?