As we head into the coldest and darkest time of the year, I find myself in a winter state of mind.
After a hectic spring, summer and fall, the gardens and the yard have been put to rest. The garage has been cleared, and the snow shovel and window scraper have been placed into the trunk of the car. As the first snowflakes of the season fall, I think about the months ahead. Like many of the animals, I begin to slow down. I begin to appreciate this season of hibernation.
Unconsciously, like my ancestors of long ago, I prepare for the approaching cold. I am back in the kitchen, cooking soup and baking. I change the bedding, pulling out flannel sheets and heavy duvets. Winter boots and jackets are retrieved from storage. I await the cold temperatures, and prepare to survive the season.
Like everyone who lives in Winnipeg, each winter I, "am possessed of the fearful knowledge my compatriots share but almost never utter: this is a country where a man can die simply from being outside." That line is from Canadian January by poet Alden Nowlan. Every winter I ask myself why I remain in this frozen world.
And then, the perfect winter morning dawns. Is there anything more beautiful? The sky is shockingly blue and the sun reflects brilliantly on a sparkling, silent, white world.
On such a morning, I remember that the winter season does invite certain creature comforts. When the wind howls and the snow whips against the window panes, I take comfort, wrapping a blanket around me and losing myself in a good book. Frigid winter nights cry out for hot chocolate or mulled wine, fireplaces, and candles. Steaming baths, cozy sweaters, fleece tops, and knitted scarves are luxuries of the season. Indoors, sheltered from the storm, comfort reigns supreme.
Time spent indoors can promote creativity. Perhaps our long, cold winters nurture this creative spirit. Many famous writers, actors, artists, and musicians call Winnipeg home. There is something about the whitewashed prairie landscape that invites the imagination to soar and discover new worlds. In Winnipeg, we are blessed with a rich variety of cultural events including the symphony, ballet and theatre. Other cities envy our world class entertainment.
This winter, before you begin to curse the weather, remember that people in Florida cannot share these simple pleasures, and instead are still coming to grips with the results of hurricane season. Somehow, Christmas lights and palm trees just don’t go together.
Out east, people are battling the aftermath of a tropical storm and nor’easter. Even the folks out west are worrying about earthquakes. So, as the shortest day of the year draws near, slow down, pour another cup of tea, light the candles, cuddle closely with a loved one, and appreciate this season of hibernation. Come spring, like the animals, we will awaken to a different, more demanding season. For now, sit back, relax, and be thankful that you live in Winnipeg.
Joanne O’Leary is a Riverbend-based writer.
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