Looking at the Doughnut, Part 1

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My friend Jim told me, in a comment to my last post, that it’s time to start looking at the doughnut instead of the hole. Actually, his comment was much more than that — validation, hope, faith, and love, for instance — but for the purposes of this entry, I’m going to focus on the doughnut.

Here’s the other perspective, the doughnut. There is so much to love here in Alberta. Let me tell you about it.

Doughnuts & Coffee

Jim could not have chosen a better metaphor because … hello! … Canada has Tim Hortons.

If you’ve never had Tim Hortons … what are you waiting for?! Get thee to a Tim Hortons! Why woulds’t thou be a breeder of the deprived?

If there isn’t one near you, come visit me. Fly into Edmonton, and just tell me what time to pick you up. If you’re in a hurry, we can go to the Tim Horton’s right there in the airport and send you back home.

There’s nothing like Timmy’s in the US (except where there’s Timmy’s, of course). Tim Hortons is a cross between McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. It’s ostensibly a coffee shop, like Starbucks, but it also has amazing doughnuts and consistently good and consistently fast fast food, like McDonald’s. All crazy cheap.

And did I mention the coffee? Unbelievably good. Always. I’ve never really liked coffee much, but two trips to Timmy’s and I was hooked. Plus they have doughnuts.

My favorite doughnut is the Dutchie — a square pastry with raisins. I’m also a big fan of the Boston Creme filled doughnut. Note that neither of my favorite doughnuts even has a hole, which makes Jim’s metaphor especially apropos.

What was the negative again? I can’t see a hole, just the most amazing doughnut on the planet.

Weather

I’m originally from Phoenix, where you don’t need a weatherman to tell you it’s going to be warm and sunny (except on the days when it’s hot and sunny). And I moved here from the Seattle-area, where it rains two hundred days a year.

There was much to love about both places (and I did), but I get bored easily. I like change! And the weather in both of those areas just doesn’t change much.

Changes here are dramatic. A week ago, we were experiencing bitter cold: minus 38 (C) with the wind chill. In fact, I started a fascinating blog post called “Brrr! It’s Cold!”

Before I could get it finished though, things warmed up. Two days ago, it was well above freezing, and the major roads were completely dry and clear of snow and ice. Today it’s thirteen below, and we’ve had a couple of inches of new snow — just enough to make things pretty again.

You know how they say the Inuit people (formerly known as Eskimos) have umpteen words for snow (though it’s disputed)? Well, the fact is, there are umpteen kinds of snow! And watching it change from day to day is fascinating, especially the shapes it takes when it drifts — and even more, the gargoyles that appear as it melts.

I could never be bored here.

Changing Light

It’s not just the weather though. Everything is in a constant state of flux. Take daylight, for example. Six weeks ago, the sun rose about 9:30 a.m. and set before 4 p.m.

Already, though, the sunrise has moved back to 8 .m. and the sunset moved forward to 5:30 p.m. — giving us a full three hours more of daylight. In six weeks.

I love watching the change. I feel connected to all the generations before me, for whom the Winter Solstice was a reminder of hope. I feel, so acutely, the metaphor that Christ is the “light of the world.”

I love the cozy sensation of the long hours of darkness, and I love the lengthening days and how it quickens my pulse and makes me anticipate spring.

Then there’s the aurora borealis. Pure magic in the sky. ‘Nuff said.

Changing Seasons

Ditto with the seasons. I love them all. I love the pristine beauty of the snow, the riotous growth in spring, the long lazy days of summer, and the gilded hills of autumn.

First snowThe only time I don’t love is the period I call “Brown Sticks” after the leaves drop and before the first snowfall. But on years like this — when the first snowfall happens while the leaves are still on the trees — we skip that period altogether. In fact, I especially loved the light snowfall over green grass, and yellow leaves winking through the snow-kissed branches.

I also love driving around and watching the changes in agriculture. The snow-covered fields are plowed away in the spring, leaving dark brown furrows. After a bit, the furrows are dotted with neat rows of bright green, that grow taller and thicker until the hills ululate with  a rich green. Next, bright yellow flowers roll over the hills like fog. In the middle of the summer, the yellow turns golden as the plants ripen and die off. Tractors drive the fields, kicking up clouds of dust (yes, I even find that fascinating) and leaving rows of short stubble, which are then covered in snow.

The cycles of change feel so right to me. They are a reminder that nothing stays the same, but that every wonder-filled stage of growth will come again.

Homeschooling

Of all the places I’ve lived, Alberta is by far the most homeschooling friendly. There’s outright financial support for curriculum (or whatever — at the parent’s discretion), and additional tax credits for things like sports (which count as phys ed). And fantastic homeschool groups like the Centre for Learning@Home.

Then there are the museums. For $75, the entire family can get an Alberta History pass and go as often as they want to all the provincial museums. Incredible museums like the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, the Royal Tyrell Museum (dinosaurs!), Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, and my personal favorite (though it’s a tough call), the Royal Alberta.

Edmonton has a similar plan (though pricier) that allows families unlimited access to the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the John Janzen Nature Centre, Fort Edmonton Park and my personal favorite, the Muttart Conservatory, where you can take a tropical and desert vacation in an hour and still be home for dinner.

I could go on and on. Homeschooling in Alberta is an incredible experience.

Outdoor Activities

This is spectacular country, and there are lots of glorious ways to explore and play.

In the winter, there’s snowshoeing (<3!), cross country skiing (which we plan to do soon), downhill skiing, skating, and “sledding” (which is done on a snow machine and quite different from “tobogganing,” which can be done on either a toboggan or a sled — confusing, I know!). Or if you prefer more sedentary activities, there’s always ice fishing (which has no appeal to me).

In the summer, there’s hiking, quadding, canoeing, fly fishing, running (etc.) — and lots of golf.

In organized sports, in addition to the standard soccer, baseball, and basketball, there’s also curling and of course hockey (or ringette, for girls). This is Canada, after all. Seems like all the boys and men play hockey.

Lots of other cool things to do too. Next month, our whole family is going to a snow shelter class, in which we will build an igloo and spend the night in it. And the kids are taking fencing with an Olympic gold medalist.

Parks

Did I mention this is spectacular country? Edmonton, especially, is veined with deep, gorgeous river valleys and ravines, and they’ve been left mostly wild. I doubt you’re ever more than a kilometre or so from a wild space, anywhere you go, and they’re glorious. It’s the least city-feeling city I’ve ever been in.

There are at least two ski areas right in the middle of town (imagine driving ten minutes to go night skiing!). Lakes (for skating or fishing or boating). Miles of trails. An equestrian centre.

Ditto with provincial parks. Our home here is about two kilometres from a 480-acre park with miles of trails, a stunning lake, lots of cool geocaches, and a resident black bear.

Speaking of which …

Animals

Ah, shoot. I’m well over a thousand words, and out of time. But I’ve hardly started! Come back for installment two, hopefully tomorrow.

I hope, however, that you are getting the point. Though I may whine about the hole, there’s FAR more doughtnut than hole, and there isn’t a yummier doughtnut on the planet.

7 Responses to “Looking at the Doughnut, Part 1”

  1. serenity39 Says:

    I think of spring as Brown Sticks and Mud.
    This is a lovely post. You could be working for Travel Alberta. :) So nice to read.

    • Katrina Stonoff Says:

      “Brown sticks and mud.” LOL. Exactly. Though I didn’t mind the brown sticks so much in Spring because things were starting to happen — pussy willows are popping out, etc.

  2. Melessa Says:

    I made the Tim Horton’s leap as I was reading Jim’s comment on that post. I really enjoyed reading this follow-up.

  3. spark Says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Great post, and I’m so happy about your adventures, and the wonderful donut of a place to be. ;-)

  4. Jim Says:

    Enjoy the doughnut! There are many “doughnut” holes out there. Enjoy the doughnut, it’s the good part!!!!!! Glad your feeling better. Much love!

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