Giving thanks for all times’s enchantments – Winnipeg Free Press


Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/10/2020 (666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TO begin a recent Zoom gathering of friends, the woman who called us together said, “Let’s go around the circle and share about our recent challenges and enchantments.”

I was taken aback by the word enchantment. It’s defined as “a feeling of great pleasure; delight.” That’s a sentiment not often linked to a pandemic.

But she is not the type of person who would use the word carelessly. She asked for our enchantments to prompt us to appreciate the splendors around us, even as our city is covered by the bleak blanket of COVID-19.

The first part of her invitation, to outline our challenges, was the easy part. Everyone has lots of challenges as we navigate anxieties and unprecedented restrictions, both as individuals and as a city.

Personally, I yearn for the public life of Winnipeg that has been extinguished, especially the opportunities to crowd together at cultural and sport events. My wife and I missed Rainbow Stage’s summer musicals and the festivals, especially the Fringe Festival that enlivens the city core with artsy excitement. And the summer wasn’t the same without staking down our blanket at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and dancing in bare feet.

I missed joining with buddies to watch the Winnipeg Jets and second-guess decisions about the team, as if we know hockey better than coach Paul Maurice. And it hurt when the Canadian Football League cancelled its season and we lost our opportunity to cheer for the defending Grey Cup champions, a deprivation that was particularly bitter on the days formerly known as Banjo Bowl weekend.

It’s like the pandemic doused the fun stuff in Winnipeg. At the same time, I realize this list of laments would be considered petty by people whose pandemic challenges include losing their jobs, testing positive for the virus or being unable to visit loved ones in locked-down care homes.

Challenges are simple to recount. Enchantments, not so much.

Personally, the closest I have come to enchantment during the pandemic has been a renewed appreciation of nature. With most public gatherings locked down, many of us keep cabin fever at bay by getting outdoors more than usual.

I tried a meditative practice that some people will think is strange. It involved lengthy observation of a single flower in our garden. For several minutes every day, I gazed at the same flower, appreciating its delicate beauty from different angles, inhaling its scent, stroking its stem and fragile petals.

After a few days, the contemplative exercise achieved its intended purpose: it opened my eyes, at least a little, to the natural world beyond the single flower. I started noticing cloud formations by day and the moon at night. I was more aware of suburban wildlife such as birds, squirrels, rabbits and the neighbor’s cat slinking through our bushes. My skin felt the caress of the same breeze that was shimmering the leaves of trees.

My wife and I usually travel for a summer vacation, but we stayed in Manitoba this year. We bought a book called A DayTripper’s Guide to Manitoba, by former Free Press colleague Bartley Kives, and visited lakes and hiking trails we always meant to try. One place we liked enough to return a second time was Pine Point Rapids, which is about a 90-minute drive east of Winnipeg; the eight-kilometre hike through boreal forest has two sets of small waterfalls, and rapids where people who brought bathing suits lay on rocks in the middle of the shallow riverbed and let the Whiteshell River rush over their bodies.

Before the pandemic, we usually socialized with our friends inside each other’s homes, but with indoor gatherings restricted, we often met our friends for walk-and-talk outings at enticing Winnipeg places we had ignored for too long: Seine River Greenway, Oak Hammock Marsh, Bunn’s Creek Trail, Fraser’s Grove Park trail and, of course, Assiniboine Park and Kildonan Park.

The outings were safe, sociable and a reminder it’s not necessary to travel far to immerse ourselves in the tranquility of nature.

When we hosted friends at our home, we stayed in the backyard, often sitting in well-distanced lawnchairs around a bonfire under starry skies. Those encounters were simple but wonderful. There’s something about staring into a fire that prompts heart-to-heart conversations.

On Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful for the natural world, and grateful for intimate connections within our bubble of family and friends. They lightened these grim times with moments of enchantment.

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Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.

Carl DeGurse
Senior copy editor

Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.

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