Embracing Winter

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Winter, for me at least, is the hardest season to appreciate. I grew up in northern Utah, where we had our first snow by Halloween, January consisted of mostly sub-zero temperatures, and the last snow didn’t fade until June some years (and I didn’t ski). The bitter winds funneling out the canyons literally froze my hair if there was an ounce of moisture left from my shower. And due to some unique topography, polluted air was forced toward the ground without being able to filter out over the mountains. It was easy to fall into that mid-winter slump, which all too often becomes more than just a slump.

But it wasn’t all gloomy. The winter sun reflecting into the house was cheerful, and made a crust on the snow that crunched deliciously when walked on. On occasional warm days (40F) we’d run outside in short sleeves to play basketball and soak up some sun. Doing donuts in random snowy parking lots was a fun pastime once I was old enough to drive (in case you’re not aware, doing donuts means intentionally making the car spin in circles for the thrill of it), and walks during thick snowfall were pure magic.

The winter season so often is a time only endured, as it painstakingly marches through late and early months. But I believe that, like a true Mr. Darcy, it improves upon closer acquaintance. Although I don’t fully understand why, we need winter. We need this time of darkness, of slowing down. This “bunkering down” feeling is rest for our bodies and souls.

The food of this season is hearty, nourishing the fire inside us until we again awake with spring. It is a time to turn our focus inside, while at the same time opening ourselves and our homes to welcome friends and family. It’s a time of celebration with beloved holidays, when we remember what it is to be a child again.

Winter can also be a time of stress, financially, emotionally or otherwise, with feelings of inadequacy creeping in. And after festivities die and we’re in the dead of winter, it can be a time of low spirits and even depression. It’s important to be slow, to see and feel what is happening inside of ourselves. Although prevalent marketing suggests otherwise, it’s natural and healthy to want to prioritize and reduce our load during this time; paring our routines back to essentials.

This year I’m trying to find the magic in winter, to embrace the season instead of just enduring it. So, here are my five ways to live and love winter this year:

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It takes so much longer to do simple things like getting ready, getting the mail, or grocery store runs. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay, that slowing down is part of the season.

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Getting outside in the winter to do something fun makes all the difference. Whether it’s skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating, or walking, there’s something about being outside, getting your blood pumping and endorphins going, that lifts your spirits.

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I thought I hated being outside because it was winter, but now I realize I just hated being cold. Proper gear is a must for any outdoor enjoyment when temperatures drop, especially the right shoes. While what is “proper” varies wherever you live, it’s always worth paying a little more for quality attire that will keep you comfortable.

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Since we’ll be spending so much time indoors, it’s so important to think of all those little details that make a space feel warm. Heavy throws, fur pillows, plenty of books, accent lighting (lamps), a holiday wreath, special candle, and some evergreen branches above the fireplace… can you see it?

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Eating for winter means hearty, warm dishes. It means using any preserves you put up during the fall, soups in the slow cooker filling your home with good smells all day, and all those lovely citrus fruits.

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My hope for this season is that we’ll take a moment or two to appreciate the slowness, to feel the stillness, and open our hearts to the needs of those around us.

For anyone else that’s trying not to think about winter after New Years… what do you do to bring warmth and cheer to your home and embrace winter a little more??

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The Winter Walk | a Short Story

The snow falls softly, yet it clings to tree and bush as if life depends upon it. Branches bow under the weight of a million tiny flakes. Ballooning piles of them defy gravity as they hungrily snatch up nearby falling friends. The air is heavy around my covered ears, and the sound of my bootfalls is muffled in powder. I feel as if I am alone in the world. Soft light comes from nowhere and everywhere as I blink away ice collecting on my eyelashes. The first snowfall has come suddenly, stealing fall away during the night.

I fill with wonder as I walk; the pumping blood that rushes to warm my body gives my thoughts clarity. I know this wonder will not last, so I immerse myself in it - allowing my heart this moment of joy. Although I walk with purpose, I am not rushed - simply drinking in the light, to recall when darkness comes.

And come the darkness does, as it is always wont. Maybe it waits to pounce, quietly prowling just out of sight. I feel it, the heaviness creeping upon me like the wet snow. Slowly at first, I barely notice. But soon I feel crushed, strangled by it. Tearing off my layers, I fight it. You will not win, I say. I remember the light, I remember the light.

Yet the darkness always prevails. It settles upon me, slowing the blood, muting the wonder. Now the light is hidden so deeply I cannot find it. I cannot wake it. The darkness envelops me, numbing the cold, turning the eyes inward. There is nothing else. Blindly I trudge on.

Then, there - yes - I see it! A single bud awakes. I slow, and something stirs in the caverns of my soul. Hope, they call it. Just a drop, and then another. As ice melts, so the blood thaws. As petals unfurl, so the sleepy darkness lifts. It lingers a moment, unwilling to abandon its captive. Then a tiny drop of sunlight splashes upon it, and just like that it is no more. So suddenly has the darkness gone that I laugh. That’s all it took, I say, awed and shaken, to rid the impenetrable gloom. A bit of light, a touch of warmth, the waking of a bloom.