“what good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― john steinbeck, travels with charley: in search of america
alright all you smugwarts out there, i’m going to set you straight about places in this country (and the world) who actually have winter. to borrow from the declaration of independence: when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for those of two thirds of the nation to stand up to the bullies and say something positive about living in a place where real winter exists.
i grew up in southern california and didn’t even experience snow until i was 24 years old. i didn’t own a heavy coat, boots or a scarf and had no idea how to drive in snow until i was actually driving in snow.
that said, i have lived outside of philadelphia since 1980 and have experienced a thing or two about winter. in spite of what you see on television, philadelphia winters are not usually all that bad both in terms of snow and temperature. but sometimes, like this year, we get into a cycle of storms that pile up the snow which feeds the colder temperature and the cycle begins again.
here’s the scoop: sometimes winter is wonderful and sometimes it sucks. here’s another scoop: living in a place where there is not winter is wonderful and sometimes it sucks.
like so many other things in life, often it’s about your attitude.
here are some of the wonderful things about winter that you don’t know unless you live someplace where there is one:
falling snow is quiet. unlike noisy rain, there’s a silence about snow that’s enchanting. and because nothing grows in the winter, the landscape is enhanced by the blanket of snow. i drive some hilly, windy roads to and from work and after a snowstorm, the drive home is spectacular.
there’s a kind of pioneer spirit that is brought out in winter climate. after a snowfall the sun comes out and with it the people from their houses and that’s when the collective harrumphing and joking and shared experiences begin. people dig out their space and those of their elderly neighbors, the kids come out with all manner of “sleds” and hit the hills until they are exhausted.
snow days are relaxing days. as long as you don’t have to get around (and very often when there are big storms you don’t have to get around), you get a day to hang out in a cozy house and catch up on things you don’t normally have time to do. i personally like to bake bread and maybe make some soup or stew, but reading a good book cover to cover is a nice option too. not to mention other activities that you can imagine for yourself if it’s just you and a significant other in the house together. (watch the birth rate nine months from now)
winter teaches you to pay attention and plan. watching weather reports is not just a hobby, sometimes it’s a matter of survival. going out with a full bladder and an empty gas tank is just asking for trouble. ditto for an empty window washing fluid reservoir. planning to get out of town to someplace warm and sunny for a week is a noble goal.
going for a winter walk can be peaceful and invigorating.
finally, winter is always followed by spring. no matter how bad the winter weather, long about mid-february the light has changed and the birds are back. the change in the angle of the light is the first thing i always notice and that’s accompanied by the noise of the birds in the morning. next come the gardening catalogues and the chance to dream about ripe red tomatoes, juicy cucumbers and containers overflowing with brightly colored annuals.