Wintering: Memoir

New Work

By Chris Galvin

All winter long, if I could, I’d stay inside.  I wouldn’t go out until spring’s first green. I’d sit in the picture window, pen and notebook in hand. Gazing out at my garden and dreaming.

I love the blue snow at dusk, twinkling under moonlight, and the fragile glass world after freezing rain. I want to photograph these things. But I’d rather stay inside. I’d rather take my photos through the window. Curl up with a good book, or my notebook and pen, or a seed catalogue.

In summer, hot weather spurs me into action. The garden calls me outside; I plant and weed and sometimes I just sit in the garden and soak it all in. But I can’t stay put for long. Always a hungry groundhog to shoo from the carrots, or strawberry runners to tame from clambering over young bean plants.

Autumn cools the land; I begin to slow down. I push myself to go outside, to prepare the house and garden for hibernation. The snow finally falls. The mercury sinks. I seek the window seat where the sunbeams stream in. Now I have time to think, to reflect.

Ideas fly. I write them down. Fill notebooks. Each scratchy bird track across the yard, an ink scratch on the paper. Birds’ three-toed feet. Squirrels’ hops and fluffy brush-tails that leave angels in the snow. Deep holes from the exuberant dog bursting through the bushes into the yard, despite his human’s calls to heel, to stay. I write it all down.

Here he is now, crashing through the yard. Plunging to his belly in snow. In the middle of the garden, the snow is deepest; maybe over a metre deep. The dog stops, perplexed. Stuck. A round fat body, no legs.  Nose and ears pointed down. Staring at snow. Looking for his legs. Conundrum. A Labrador; now a tubular, legless sausage dog.

His human shouts. Shouts again. Come here! Now! Hey! The dog, planted in place. Swiveling his head, perking up his ears, looking again at the snow. I wonder: does he like where he is, or is he really stuck this time?

A single flapping crow settles on a fence post a few feet from the dog. Tucking its wings in with care, first one, then the other. The first one again. Adjustments. A crow’s version of twiddling thumbs. I write it all down.

The crow leans forward, opens its beak to push out a raucous call aimed at the dog floating on his belly on the snow. I watch from the picture window. My face reflected in the window, superimposed on the golden-furred dog; my face, chilled by the nip of winter radiating from the glass. My back baking in the heat from the radiator below the window seat.

I know what will happen. The crow will fly off. The dog will break the spell, will plod out the same way he came in. His owner, just beyond the garden gate, hidden from sight, will go home with his dog.

Winter will thaw, spring will sprout and summer will burgeon. But for now, the frozen yard is frozen in time. I sit in the window, reflected, reflecting.

White drifts. Tawny fur. Black feathers. Transparent blue sky. Wooden fence the same golden colour as the dog. I write it all down.


  1. Posted January 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I miss the snows of my youth! We have a dusting this morning in Victoria, and I could see it before I looked out the window. That fine white light.

  2. Posted January 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Makes me long for snow. Captures that feeling I always have as I stare out the window at a winter storm in the evening. Well done.

  3. Posted January 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Just love this. I feel like I just sat through a guided meditation. I dislike winter also, but this story makes me want to drop everything and rush outside into the snow. And I’ll remember to take along my camera.

  4. Posted January 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful seasonal cycle. Love the wheel of the year. I’m the opposite, the winter beckons me outside when the snow falls, and I hibernate in the summer, away from the heat and the too intense sun. :)

  5. Posted January 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating and accurate descriptions of the change of seasons, of winter, and of the process of observing and writing.

    Especially liked the contrast between the cold from the window and the warmth from the heater in the back.

    And a great twin to Seasons by the Lake, that focuses more on summer and fall.

  6. Posted January 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    A perfect way to start a January Monday and a writing week. Thank you. Nestled in the words.


Chris Galvin

Chris Galvin lives and writes in Canada and Vietnam. Her work has appeared in magazines including Asian Cha, Room, and previous issues of The Winnipeg Review. Chris is author of the forthcoming book Breakfast under the Boddhi Tree.