Michaeline: Exploring Your Setting

Swans standing on a snowy river bank.

Hungry swans on Tokachi River. (Photo by Michaeline Duskova)

So, this is going to be a “hive mind” sort of a post where I pick your brains. The question is, “What’s the most interesting thing to do in your region during this season?”

For me, it’s the swans on Tokachi River. Every year, they migrate here to enjoy the clement weather (only -24C/-11F last night – I don’t even want to think about the cold they are escaping!). For a few months, they congregate on the river next to the hot springs, splash around, eat the goodies tourists throw to them, and just generally look as picturesque as they possibly can. Being swans, that’s pretty damn picturesque.

I love picking up a loaf of discounted bread and heading over to the river to watch their antics. Swans, despite their good PR about being calm and serene on the surface, are really noisy creatures when they aren’t swimming. They honk at each, fight, are curious to see who has come down to the river today, and have rather complex interactions with the ducks. You’ll have to imagine them, because I can’t describe them. There aren’t a lot of ducks, but those who are there seem to hold their own.

It fascinates me that they just pick up and leave their summer lives and head south for the winter, then go back when they feel the south is getting too hot. How do they manage to communicate without words? It’s almost magic the way one of them will lift up off the water, and the others follow in an orderly launch, then they make that V-shape in the sky and fly off to the next rest stop on their journey. How do they know? How do they not run into each other?

Swans and ducks on Tokachi River's snowy banks.

The birdman, coming to check me out. (Picture by Michaeline Duskova)

Going to see the swans is the work of an afternoon. Daytime temps are pretty cold to *this* human, so an hour of observation is about all I need. After that, we can visit the hot springs, or head into town for a cup of hot cocoa and some cake.

This month, I’m going to spend some time exploring the winter of my region. Of course, I’m hoping it’s going to translate into bountiful stories, but even if it doesn’t, I won’t be heartbroken. Just enjoying my home region even in the depths of winter has a certain value.

So, I ask again, what’s going on in your region this month? Whether you are in the cruel clutches of winter, or smothering embrace of summer, I’m sure there’s something cool going on. What is it?

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Exploring Your Setting

  1. A hot spring in the snow, with bonus swans! Lovely.

    I spent a little time today planning a spring visit to the Shakespeare’s Globe, the reconstructed outdoor Elizabethan playhouse on the banks of the Thames, a few hundred yards from the original site. That’s a great place to visit, but even better (imo) is the winter alternative, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It’s a beautiful, painstakingly created reconstruction of a Jacobean playhouse: small, wooden and entirely candle-lit. There’s a Pit and a Minstrel’s Gallery. The sound is so rich. The photos on the Globe website don’t do it credit. Search online for Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, click ‘images’ and you’ll see what I mean.

    • Oh my goodness! The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse sounds delightful! I would love to see a candlelit performance. I wonder if they have any of those kinds of period theaters in New York? I suppose New York would have been lit with limelight, but it would be helpful for some of my stories to have that experience.

      How far in advance do they recommend one get tickets for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse? Or for the Globe, for that matter? SWP is a gorgeous space!

      • The candlelit playhouse is gorgeous, and *bonus!* attending performances there helped my writing, too, as Alexis’s world is pre-electricity. I don’t know whether they have anything similar in New York–the fire risk assessments must be a nightmare, and I believe the Globe is the only building with a thatched roof permitted in the entire city of London–but if you get the chance to go I heartily recommend it.

        Public booking for the summer season at the Globe opens at the end of January, so enthusiasts would be buying tickets 3-6 months ahead to secure their favorite seats and performances. I got tickets last summer a couple of months in advance when Kay came to visit. I guess you could probably leave it later, but I’ve never tried so I don’t know how much choice you’d have or whether they hold some seats back.

        • (-: One day, I will make it to Europe. I can just imagine how exciting it would be to attend a candlit theater like that.

          I did once go to a concet that was candlelit, but it was very modern with candles on the floor, in votives, etc. I think the art of lighting with candles is largely lost. But at least we didn’t have long skirts to catch fire from the floor candles!

          I remember discovering during a blackout that if I set a candle in front of a mirror, I got a whole lot more light! I guess it’s just common sense, but I’d never thought of it before, and I don’t think anyone bothered to mention such arrangements in the books I read. I wonder why it’s not more of a thing; it’d work with electric lights, too.

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