January and Toronto is one of the most miserable combinations imaginable. It’s dark (so dark), freezing, damp (if not outright wet), grey and (often) icy. During this month – and, in truth, through much of February – I wonder daily about why I live here. I mean, there are other northern climes that bring charm along with colder temps (Montreal, anyone?)*. I can’t tell you how fast it gets old, wearing wool socks with shearling slippers, jersey knit pjs, a sweater and a scarf to watch TV in the evenings! And we have the heat on. It just doesn’t seem to penetrate the dreary meteorologic reality. And, apparently, century homes have their detractions.
One thing keeps me sane though: walking. And I’m not talking about ambling along in a swing coat, catching snowflakes on my tongue. I mean, bundling up like some arctic explorer and kicking ass to get somewhere by foot - before said foot falls off from frostbite. To wit: The evening walk from work to daycare (to pick up M) takes an hour mid-summer. And I’m not going slowly. The January version takes 40 minutes. Sometimes I sweat despite the sub-zero temps. Because I’m practically running, you know. Running to beat the cold.
Because it’s so fascinating, here’s an example of my midwinter walk-wear for your reading pleasure: I start with wool socks. I wear an underlayer (cami or T shirt) which might or might not be partially visible under the merino or cashmere sweater I drape over top. I always wear a long, sweater-weight cashmere scarf. Where I fall down, I’ll admit, is on the pants front. I refuse to wear leggings underneath my jeans. Leggings and tights are for dresses and skirts. I don’t care how cold it is. But, as it’s often too cold for regular pants (never mind dresses or skirts!), thick denim has the edge. Of course, I make it dark and accessorize it chicly, as if I work in some fun creative environment. J
For the outerlayer: I go with fur (the warmest fabric on earth) or a combination of down and fur. For example: Canada Goose parka with fur hat. My boots are waterproof, flat (for the most part), and lined with shearling.
That, my friends, is how to spend 2 hours a day outside in TO in the winter.
Yesterday, I had the faintest glimmer of hope encouraged by a) a vague evening increase in temperature and b) the dimmest edge of daylight at the horizon, for almost my entire trek! Another trick in my arsenal of “northern maintenance of sanity” is vitamin D3. I’m not talking about wussy doses. Nor am I suggesting you follow my strategy, as it is naturopath prescribed/montiored and temporary. I take 4000 IUs of the stuff a day. Just for 6 weeks in the darkest part of the year. I’d like to tell you it makes me buoyant with energy, despite the hideous lack of light, but I suspect it’s just forestalling the suicidal impulse :-)**
*Necessary disclosure: People everywhere else in Canada despise Torontonians, for a variety of reasons (many of them inaccurate). All of them can agree, however, that we are soft and pathetic in our response to winter. And that, in TO, we don’t get real cold, thank you very much.
** If ever I am truly suicidal, I assure you I won't talk about it.