Winter Revisited

OK, I admit it.  I’m not a big fan of winter.  Ever since we moved here, from California to the east coast, six years ago, I’ve been complaining to anyone who will listen to me, about winter.  The cold.  The inconvenience.  The cold.  The shoveling.  The barren landscape and lack of color.  The cold.  Did I mention the cold?

So, this year I decided – enough already.  I need to stop whining about this.  I was even getting sick of hearing myself.  We have now lived here too long for me to legitimately whine. I needed to reframe my thinking and find things to love (well, maybe just like) about winter.

So I started my endeavor just as I do much of my work… I started by asking smart and saavy people I trust for their advice and opinions.  In this case, that meant people who seemed to not be bothered about winter.  In fact, all of the people I spoke with seemed to really like winter (go figure).  “What is it that you like about winter?” I asked them. And then I collected what they had to say.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“I love winter cooking – breads and stews and soup – all those wonderful smells.”

“Winter is the time when I don’t feel like I have to be outside all the time – I can stay in, and its alright.  I can clean my closets.  I can read for hours and not feel guilty about it.”

“Skiing, sledding, ice skating.”

“I love the look of the sky in winter – that clear, unadulterated blue!”

“Reading by the fire, sipping hot chocolate.”

“Winter clothes are my favorites – boots, thick & fuzzy sweaters, layers.”

“The holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years…a progression of festivities…”

OK, so those gave me a lot to think about.  But I’m not a skier, nor a skater.  And the holidays?  Well, good point but there’s as much stress associated with those as there is pleasure. I could get into the food thing, definitely, and reading by the fire – oh yeah.  Loved the point about feeling it was “alright” to stay indoors. However, I didn’t have any ah-has here. I needed more.

I turned to poetry – and found this.  A long-forgotten favorite from Emily Dickinson…

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —
’Tis the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air —

When it comes, the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath —
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death —

Nice, isn’t it? An internal difference, where the Meanings are….I really liked that.  I could glimpse something there… let’s stop for a moment and, as Pablo Neruda says, “not move our arms around so much”.  Winter is in fact a chance to see less.  To have less input.  The trees are bare.  There is just less color.  There are more days where I can legitimately stay inside and maybe even, on snow days, do nothing.  Winter can be a sort of hibernation, can’t it?  A rest from the thrum of the rest of the year?  A chance to see the world in relief.  An absence.

So, it’s not a perfect relationship I have with winter.  But I’m getting there.

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