Roasted chestnuts will have to do…

Each and every winter I ask myself why, having made the decision to live abroad years ago, I did not choose to base myself in a tropical country. As much as I love my wood stove and warm quilts, I would be just happy never to have to wear a winter coat again. And yet, if the weather were always nice, I would still want to be playing outside. Living in a place that has winter, albeit mild, is my own way of forcing some discipline on myself to get all those things done that I don’t get done because, well, because I am outside playing.

When you live in a seaside town, winter is also the time everything slows down: business is slow, shops close early. Holidays aside, people tend not to socialize as much as when the weather is warmer. Gardens of course do the sensible thing and, winter vegetables and winter bulbs aside, take it easy, if they don’t outright hibernate. The tortoises have been buried for several months by now and won’t raise their dirty heads until the ground starts to warm up. The cats curl up quintessentially in their baskets in front of the respective wood stoves, moving as little as possible.

As we humans are not programmed to hibernate, I try to make the most of the cooler weather, despite really not caring for it. At our workshop, this is the time we try to catch up on items we have run out of as well as work on new items we think will sell well. A few of our ladies get cross as the amount of work that I can accept from them, which means the amount of money they can earn, is reduced, but most of them understand and take advantage of some down time for themselves. After all, most of the work their husbands do is also seasonal, so they are used to income fluctuations at home.

Despite my grumblings, I actually think it makes a whole lot of sense to live more in tune with the seasons: up with the sun, down the moon, or variations on that theme. Mother Nature had it all figured out before we came along to mess things up.

While many homes here in Ayvalik have central heating and others use wood for fuel, many others burn coal, a horrible low grade coal. If there is no breeze, the pollution in this quaint town, which is so lovely when the weather is nice, is quite terrible. I can make wise cracks about wanting warmer winters, though the reality of the rapidly changing weather patterns is actually quite scary. So far, unlike many other places on the planet, our winter this year is rather typical, rather ‘normal’. I do wish that, as the garbage ladies, there were a way to feasibly reduce the air pollution here. I am sorry to say that is over my head. Nor can I offer alternative heating to those families who cannot even afford the 200 – 400 lira cost of buying wood; so many people here still quiver over spending an extra 50 kurus.

What I can do is put some more chestnuts on my stove to share with anyone willing to stop by, make some chestnut puree for myself, to share in the form of chestnut cake, and check the status of the latest blooming bulbs.

After all, it comes down to making the most of it, even on a grey winter day, in the life of the garbage ladies.