I listen to the howling of the wind as it whips the snowdrifts about our modest rambler. Branches dangle from their fragile joints, and birds huddle beneath boxwoods and holly. The birdseed scattered just moments earlier is now covered with a new layer of snow. In the warm glow of our fire, the scent of tomato, garlic and onion from the bubbling pot of chili drifts throughout our home. The dogs lie at our feet gnawing on their bones, and we huddle in the family room, surfing through Netflix … as we brace for the storm.
Just days before, we were collecting supplies to ready for the blizzard. Flashlights were recharged, shovels and ecofriendly salt positioned by the doors, fresh treats and toys gathered to entertain our dogs, ingredients for soups and stews and favorite comfort foods purchased and stored. Cars fully gassed and parked, we were ready … almost delighting in the idea of a weekend of snowshoeing, book reading, movie watching and family time.
The first 24 hours were beautiful to witness as the white blanket began to cover the brown and drab of January. The contrast of cardinals on snowy limbs resembled holiday greeting cards, now discarded for the season. Social media ignited with pictures of snowy backyards and decks, while friends and family in more temperate climates were not denied their contribution of palm trees and sunny skies.
“Wish you were here!” read the captioned picture of a friend lying on the beach with a fruity umbrella drink.
“Right back atcha!” replied another as she sat in her steaming hot tub, snow falling all around, enjoying aged brandy.
There was a time I would have joined the ranks of “winter haters.” I had been in the tropics in my early teen years, and seeing Santa in anything other than Bermuda shorts just seemed wrong! Winter in Maryland was cold — and boring. So I grumbled and grunted the months away, counting the days to spring.
Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I was complaining for a full quarter of my life, wishing the months would vaporize into warmer days. I was missing out on opportunities to witness beauty and joy that could be experienced even on snowy, bleak winter days. So, I decided to learn to love winter.
Viktor Frankl, in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, suggested that the one thing that can never be taken from a person is her perspective of her situation. Therefore, according to Frankl, we have the opportunity to view any circumstance in a beneficial — even transcendent — manner. It is with this intention that I offer to you a few of the tricks that helped me transcend my wintertime bah-humbug blues:
1) Enjoy comfort foods. What are your favorite cold-weather foods? Let’s face it … soups and stews, ciders and hot cocoa (aged scotch or brandy, for that matter) just taste better when it’s cold outside. I could appreciate winter food and drink with little effort.
2) Get involved in winter sports. I made a list of activities that could be experienced only in snowy weather. This list included ice skating, snow skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and making snow people and snow angels. As I’ve mentioned, my childhood did not include weekends at the slopes, so I invested in lessons. I learned to ice skate at a local arena and took ski lessons any chance I could get. Although I never acquired a passion for either, I found that I really loved sitting by the warm fire in the ski lodge with a hot beverage in my hand and enjoyed the glow that physical fatigue offers after a day on the slopes or ice.
I also discovered that I loved snow tubing. After all, if you are going to end up on your bum … why not begin there? I later obtained snowshoes and now thoroughly enjoy romping in freshly fallen mounds on a quiet evening. If you are more of a spectator of sports, remember there is always the Super Bowl, March Madness and the Winter Olympics (every four years).
3) Dress appropriately. Winter is cold, and I learned quickly that my jeans and bubble jacket didn’t offer enough warmth as part of my new quest to appreciate winter. So, I invested in the real deal — insulated, wicking pants and jacket, along with matching headwear and gloves. What a difference appropriate winter clothing makes. Trust me!
4) Huddle in community. I live in the best neighborhood ever. In addition to keeping an active email blitz going to check on our aging neighbors and helping out with an occasional malfunctioning heater, we arranged a snowperson contest followed by a potluck feast. It is such fun mounding snow with intention and in community. Laughter and silliness permeated the wet gathering. Then we peeled off our snowy gear, warmed ourselves by a fire and enjoyed a table spread with each neighbor’s favorite idea of comfort food. Yum!
5) Relish the silence. I am inherently an introvert. Although I thoroughly enjoy my practice as a counselor and my academic career as a counselor educator, I recognize my need for quiet. I always have a book or two (or three) on my nightstand waiting for me to openly indulge in literary wisdom or adventure. Snowy, wintry days are perfect for lounging in your favorite snuggle-wear and reading away the hours guilt-free.
6) Appreciate the beauty. It is no secret that I swoon to the beauty of nature regardless of season. The birds feast at the feeders on suet and seed. The squirrels run along the branches, dodging snowdrifts that randomly plop down from the tree limbs. The red berries come to life against the green holly bushes, framed by winter’s white. If you are fortunate to live near a forest, you may spy a family of deer out for a moonlit walk. Winter offers a variety of natural beauty that is unique to the season … if only we open our eyes.
7) Realize that it is temporary. For those who, after exhausting all possible avenues to appreciate the winter months, still crave the warmer weather, I remind you … it is a mere few months that will be over before you can say “Easter Bunny” (especially if the occasional tropical vacation is sprinkled in).
Yes, winter is all about perspective and (for some of us) patience.
Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland, and a visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her current research examines sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer. She is working on a book titled Homegrown Psychotherapy: Scientifically Based Organic Practices that speaks to nature-based wisdom. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.