I recall a time not so long ago when I slept like a babe in arms. Sleep’s a new frontier at mid-life. I’ve decided it’s futile to rail against this current state. Instead I try to accept it.
So I’m up and writing at daybreak. That hour some writers, overstuffed on self-righteousness, proclaim to be the most creative time. A night owl by nature, I generally don't rise until ten and wonder if my nocturnal leanings disqualify me for membership in that particular club. There’s a magnet on my fridge that reads: “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” God bless Oscar Wilde.
The restlessness I’m feeling is more pervasive than just this one night. It’s an energy that is shot through late winter, when all northern dwellers grow weary of the snow and cold. My landlord recently decided to switch from salt to sand for roughing the surface of the slick ice in abundant supply this season. The grey-brown waste on my walkway seems to sum it all up. Dirty pools of this snow-sand debris melt to muddy slurry on the white tiles in my foyer. How I long to wash it all away.
I rushed outside into brilliant sunshine two days ago, walking directly into its warming path. The light buoyed my flagging spirit and, for a moment, made an early end to this season seem within reach. The temperature rise softened the snow and ice underfoot making it crumble like shale as I walked. Out on the street in Bloor West Village, people unzipped their jackets and were soon carrying woolen hats and gloves in hand.
I’ve been thinking about my bike and warm night rides in the streets between my house and the Humber River. I’ve put my name on a waiting list for a garden allotment in High Park but won’t know until April if I’ll be plunging my hands into earth that’s my own this spring. I push down the desire to purchase dahlia tubers with wild abandon, imagining myself sitting in the shadow of their tall, heavy, multi-coloured flower heads in late summer bloom.
I’m stuck between the oppression of this endless winter and the too-far-off promise that is spring. This cold season can’t pass quickly enough for me. March surely must bring relief. The sun will hang high in the sky long enough to trigger epic melts. Snow banks will begin to recede, exposing a dirty and dormant terrain.
My restlessness finds temporary relief in marmalade making. I’ve pulled from my shelf a book whose title--Saving the Season--makes me chuckle. I like marmalade and it was the appearance in my local store of Seville oranges—with their distinct skin like cellulite on aging dames—that reminded me of this kitchen pleasure. I have a great recipe from Sally Clarke, one of Britain’s best cooks, that makes use of this prized citrus fruit from Spain. But truth is, orange marmalade is not my favourite. I prefer lemon and, when marmalade of my own making is in short supply, I purchase Robertson’s Silver Shred. There’s something less bitter, more acidic and fresh in preserves made with lemon. I have a recipe for a quick marmalade using Meyer lemons that I want to try. They’re an ideal flavour cross between an orange and a lemon: sweet and tart all at once. Meyer lemons’ skin is thin and tender and suited to a quick cooking preserve. I can imagine the marmalade’s pale orange translucence suspended with bits of soft, saturated citrus fruit.
I’ve also settled on making something new: Fine-Shred Lime and Ginger Marmalade from Kevin West’s extraordinary book. It’s a three-day process, just the kind of project that will chip a few more days off this dreadful time of year. I learn from West that the spongy white pectin-rich pith that cushions the delicate inner fruit is called the albedo. There’s something in the tumble of language he uses to describe the results that rallies my enthusiasm, making my mouth water in anticipation. This marmalade, he writes, is “a translucent mass suspending a tumult of finely shredded green peels—and the powerful flavours of raw lime and ginger become elegant through dilution.” It’s a preserve tinged the delicate green of spring hope. There’s a Marmalade Cake that I want to try, imagining spectacular results using lime preserve instead of orange.
I know marmalade making is the right task for today. It will ease my weariness and leave me with the impression of productivity. I’m going to set out in search of the ingredients after another cup of tea. The city has issued an extreme cold weather alert (too many of those this year to track). There’s a storm bearing down on Toronto that’s promising to wreak havoc on our already frazzled systems. So today I’ll gather fruit from far-off sunny places and shake my wooden spoon at this fierce season. Winter be damned! In my kitchen for a time there’s the promise of sweeter, brighter, fresher things to come.
 Kevin West, Saving the Season (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013) 477.
 Ibid. 477
 Ibid. 477