I grew up in a Canadian city (profiled in a documentary “Colder Than Mars”) that is either celebrated, or depending on your perspective, reviled for the harshness of its winter weather.
Now I live near a place that this week garnered the dubious distinction as the world’s coldest capital city.
Yet, despite proximity to this season’s many beauties, I am not, by nature, a winter person.
As soon as autumn’s crisp air is but a faint memory, I settle in with thermal socks and heated blanket at the ready, a stock of tea and hot chocolate in the pantry, a winter “survival kit” in the trunk (boot) of my car, and industrial-size pots of moisturizer to protect against cold days and frosty nights.
Perhaps because it’s been an especially bone-chilling few days with temperatures hovering (with the wind chill) around -37 Celsius, I realized I spend five months of the year ‘hunkered down.’
But since the Canadian winter is an inescapable part of my life, I then reminded myself to “count the pluses” (as my sweet mom used to say) instead of bemoaning the negatives.
Books and Netflix
Cozy in my reading socks and with a warm Floppy Ears snuggled by my side, winter is a time to sit by the fire, read, watch films, and refill my creative well.
So far in January, I’ve read five books, have two more in progress, and have also watched numerous Netflix shows—yay for the return of a new series of Grace and Frankie here in North America!
Eating by candlelight isn’t an exception in my house but an almost daily occurrence.
After the night draws in, there’s nothing better than pulling the curtains and lighting a candle (or oil lamp).
Not only is it calming, but there’s something about that soft glow that encourages lingering over a meal and more family conversation too.
Heat, hot water and indoor plumbing
Back in the 1840s, my Irish ancestors settled near where I now live. Their long-ago log house, recorded in early census data, had none of the modern conveniences to which I’m accustomed.
What would it be like to use an outdoor privy (outhouse) on frigid winter days, bathe (at most once a week) in a tub with water heated over a fire, or wrestle with a wood stove to cook family meals?
I’m grateful I don’t have to find out!
Wearing the right clothes (cue thermal long underwear), I find special contentment walking along a woodland path in winter, crisp snow crunching beneath my boots, and cold air sweeping life’s cobwebs away.
And when I lived in England, during rain-soaked walks from my daughter’s school to my then day job, I often longed for snowy woods—and now they’re on my doorstep.
Embracing the season
When there’s no prospect of a Caribbean beach in real life, I haul out an old CD and put Canadian music icon, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for a Winter’s Night,”on the player.
So while I hunker down for winter (wrapped in the gorgeous shawl a dear friend sent me for Christmas), I also try to embrace and be grateful for this cozy time of simple pleasures.
And if all else fails?
Both books I’m currently working on are set in summer so at least in fiction I can retreat to a world where temperatures are balmy, flowers lush, and characters spend long, lazy days on the porch.
After all, no matter how long and harsh this winter season, there is always the gentle, if elusive, promise of spring.