I have relatives that live in California and every time I talk to them they try to convince me to come live there. The main draw, in their eyes, is the perpetually mild weather. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place that’s sunny with an average of 20°C all year long?
I live in a city that spends almost half the year under snow. And I love it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. I love walking around without a coat, the long daylight hours, the feeling of grass under my feet. But I love the changing of the seasons too much to live in a land of constant summer. What would I do without the golden months of fall, or the freshness of spring, or the sparkle of winter?
I haven’t always loved winter. I used to see it as a necessary step towards feeling the intense relief that spring brings, and a good reason to huddle inside with a book and a blanket. The extremely short daylight hours (only about 7 hours a day in December) used to make me feel gloomy for much of the year, especially around the winter solstice. But over the last couple of years I have grown to love snow and cold, and even darkness, with more delight and wonder than I previously thought possible.
How do I do it? First of all, I go outside.
While many people I know complain about the cold and hibernate indoors as much as possible, I have found that the more time I spend outdoors, the better I feel about winter and life in general. Last winter I walked 25 minutes to and from work 3 days a week and, even in -30°C, it was wonderful. I bundled up and walked quickly enough to keep my blood flowing, and always felt awake when I arrived.
Now I live too far from work to walk, but I still try to get out whenever I can to snowshoe, skate, ski, snowboard, or ride a toboggan. Even just walking around the block kicking chunks of ice and feeling the air gently bite my cheeks can be invigorating and revitalizing. In fact, right now I’m sitting, watching snowflakes gently tumble from a grey sky, and thinking about taking a break for some fresh air.
The second thing I do is to pay attention and try to exist in the moment. A counsellor I went to once asked me to find something ‘unique and pleasurable’ even in unpleasant emotions. Walking in the cold is a great opportunity to practice this kind of mindfulness.
To me, loving winter is part of living a creative life since it means really looking at what’s around me and finding beauty in everything I see. It means experiencing the present moment as deeply as I can. It’s easy on the days when fresh snow is sparkling under a blue sky, and these photos show winter at it’s best.
It gets harder when the clouds roll in and the world feels drab and heavy, or the snow melts and everything is covered in a layer of brown mud. But it’s not impossible. I’m working on loving winter in all it’s moods – whether sparkling or or muted, whether gentle or harsh – and finding out all that it has to offer.
I’ve learned that even the darkness can be embraced and enjoyed, with festivals like the one I went to a few weeks ago, where a path through a wooded ravine led to enigmatic art installations that lit up the darkness, like this one, this one, and this one.
I’m working on seeing and feeling winter with all my senses and being truly in it, instead of waiting for it to pass. Why spend half the year wishing things were different? Why not find something to love in the way things are right now?
What about you? Do you have a hard time with winter? What are you learning to love about it?