If you ask the average person bent double under the burden of yet another winter, there can be little beauty found in a season characterized by bitterly cold winds, lifeless gardens and roads speckled with the ashy white of salt residue. There is no doubt that winter toughens us and makes us stronger; but the more winters one lives through, the less likely one is to take out a journal and wax poetic over the extraordinary perfection of an ice sheet coating one’s windscreen at six AM.
Bottom line, this is not a season that encourages us to forgo the pleasures of hearth and recliner for greater pleasures outside. It doesn’t promise the easy charms of a summer night, the seductive fragrance of sun-warmed foliage, or the blissful indulgence of ultraviolet rays upon your shoulders. And, admittedly, it is challenging to recognize the beauty of a snowstorm when contemplating the ways in which you could die of exposure if your car broke down on the way to Grandma’s house.
But while the teeth-clenching temperatures and shortened days are not exactly conducive to sitting on the porch every evening admiring the bronzing of evergreens, an opposite state of affairs – that of a severed connection to the winter world outside – is to be avoided if we wish to get through this season without feeling like we are being ruthlessly and endlessly punished. In short, one must embrace the season for what it is, not reject it for what it isn’t. Short of visiting St. Moritz on a three month package holiday, here are three ways one can do this on a weekly, if not daily basis:
This seemingly obvious solution is surprisingly not so obvious to a general public bent on fashion at all costs. When I look around at this time of year, I very rarely see people properly outfitted for the cold. Believe me, I am an ardent follower of the “one must suffer to be beautiful” regime – but I’d rather apply the philosophy to three-inch strappy sandals in June.
Don’t let yourself get cold in the first place. Hats, scarves, gloves, coats, vests, long underwear and thick socks are to be used liberally and without shame. Wrapped up well, you are far more likely to linger a little longer over outside chores and feel the invigoration of cold air against your cheeks – perhaps noticing a bit of beauty in the season while you are at it. When in doubt – layer.
One of the things I noticed when I moved to New York City years ago and went through my first East Coast winter, was the tendency of people to literally put their heads down when traveling from Point A to Point B. With your head down, your shoulders braced against the wind and your teeth clenched, you are doing battle with the season. This is a sure sign that you are not warm enough and you probably haven’t sorted out your footwear either. When your head is up and looking around, you are more likely to notice the stark outline of a lone sycamore, or the brilliantly crimson berries on a Holly, or the ice coated branches of a otherwise homely Bradford Pear. Do this enough in fact, and you may find yourself wishing that you brought your camera on your daily commute.
Take a Walk!
This directive can only be followed after one has paid attention to the previous two. When temperatures grow chilly, the love affair we were carrying on with our outside space during the warmer months is suddenly and cruelly ended. Joggers stop jogging. Walkers stop walking. Don’t be a fair weather friend to the outside world. The trees are still there, they just changed their clothes. The birds are not as plentiful, but the ones that are still hanging around are fascinatingly busy. And best of all, the people who threw down this paper in disgust about five paragraphs ago are curled up in their recliners and giving you the opportunity of traversing your favorite summer walk in blessed winter solitude.
We’re always going to have a favorite season. Skiing and skating aside, I’d be lying if I said this one was mine. However, it is pointless – not to mention childish – to spend three to four months of the year pouting. Get yourself warm, get your eyes open and get out there.
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