Solidarity in solitude

Gathering the dual citizens of Winnipeg

A frosty winter doesn't have to mean isolation.

Supplied photo

In Winnipeg, we wear our winters as a badge of honour. That shared hatred of plugging in our cars for up to five months of the year is what brings us together – even though it’s what keeps us apart. When the mercury drops, we head indoors. And when Environment Canada sends out winter storm warnings, we retreat from the river trail and migrate to our couches. There, we at least have Netflix and overheating laptops to keep us warm.

From the comfort of our separate homes, we Google the Farmer’s Almanac and try to do the near-impossible: predict the weather. After all, we inhabit a city that can never seem to make up its mind. That Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of Winnipeg’s climate is reflected in its people – the ones who pair parkas with cargo shorts and pull down their scarves every time they want another sip of their Slurpees.

I’d like to think I’m a little more practical than that, but here I am, holed up in my apartment and doing everything I can to stay indoors. I let the recycling pile up and spill across my entryway, because it’s too cold to warrant taking three steps out the door and emptying the bin. But I’ll forgo my toque and ski pants when I venture out tomorrow. The forecast is looking up, and I am a Winnipegger, after all.

Still, I check flights almost every day, trying to squeeze in one more weekend escape to visit my partner in the snowless (and therefore practically tropical) warmth of southeast Pennsylvania. But when I get there, it’s right back to pulling out my Winter-peg trivia and converting temperatures to Fahrenheit, crafting modern-day horror stories about the icy chill of a hometown that’s “colder than Mars.”

And in my case, winter is a time of seclusion. I live alone for most of the season, and the cold shuffles me indoors, away from public spaces and social commitments. But there’s some solidarity in this solitude. We collectively complain, then rally together when an outsider asks why we still live here. Winnipeg is rife with obligatory small talk about the weather, no matter the time of year – but why end the conversations there?

In this season that simultaneously drives us apart and draws us together, it can’t hurt to check in on one another. Many of us share the same love/hate relationship with our city, but once the holidays are over, we go our separate ways and slowly let our relationships with each other fall to the wayside.

The start of a new year and the frigid, January temperatures drive us inside both our homes and ourselves. We resolve to eat healthier, meditate, begin new projects – and turn our focus inward. In a season that already forces us to shut ourselves away, maybe it’s time to rewrite new February resolutions. Invite loved ones in from the cold, whether that’s through a few extra texts, a phone call or – when the weather permits – an actual visit.

Danielle Doiron is the copy and style editor at The Uniter by night and your friendly neighbourhood recluse all winter long.

Published in Volume 73, Number 17 of The Uniter (February 7, 2019)

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