Snow and cold and long, dark nights

It’s winter here, real winter. Last year was vaguely winterish, but it really didn’t mean it. It sure as snowy, blowy, shivery hell means it now.

I kind of love it. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to love it: I have warm clothes and solid, water-defying winter boots to wear when I go out, plus a cozy home to retreat into when I begin to be distracted by how cold my toes are growing.

Still, I’ve never gone skiing or snowboarding and have no plans to do so; I am theoretically interested in cross-country skiing but only if there are hot chocolate stations every kilometer or so. I last went sledding about 20 years ago, during which I took a fairly disastrous trip down a famously steep and bumpy hill in Halifax, and was knocked out by my co-pilot, who also was knocked out; we’d foolishly squeezed our two adult-sized bodies onto a Krazy Karpet and gone for it; it may or may not be significant that we both later completed PhDs.

I’ve never played hockey, gone curling, built a structurally sound 3-story snow fort (some drunken undergrads did this at Queen’s my first year there; it’s occasionally made me wonder if I should have gone into engineering), built a snowman, or engaged in a snowball fight after grade 8 when a kid put a rock in one and almost took out my eye (I would have been less injured, perhaps, had I been wearing my glasses, but I’d recently thrown them off a cliff because they were unbearably ugly and so weren’t available).

I like to be warm; I like to read (pretty much impossible to do outside in winter); and I like to ride my bicycle (difficult but not always impossible in winter). I have none of the obvious qualities of a real winter aficionado. Yet, I find shoveling snow strangely compelling, especially very early in the morning; I love the quiet that comes with massive snowfalls that settle in for a good long nest; I love the glint and glare of snow, its crunching under boots; I feel a sort of tenderness towards everyone I see, bundled up in the shapeless uniform required to survive -20C and worse, because they all look a little younger and more innocent. I love so much of this time of year: hot apple cider, scarves, fat novels, the way hot food tastes and how it makes me feel like maybe I could hibernate but don’t have to, paw prints in the snow, stretches of untouched snow, frozen branches against a cold-fire sky. 

I don’t even mind how early the sun goes down and how resistant it is to rising again next morning; this merely adds to my sense of this as a quiet, thoughtful, restful time of year. It gives me the comfortable feeling that the glory of being outside in the dark and cold is fully equal to the glory of being inside, wrapped in a blanket, listening to a crackling fire (even if it’s only the fireplace channel!).

For the rest of the year, but especially summer, being inside can feel like a form of punishment to me. But in winter, it is only an easy, simple, lovely sort of thing and I am as surprised as you are, as well as grateful, to find it so.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Elizabeth Palladino says:

    Amen, sister. It will be 7 degrees Fahrenheit here tonight (upstate NY), and a clear, crisp, snowy night indeed. With my wool sweater, sheepskin slippers, woolen blanket on the sofa, down comforter and flannel sheets on the bed, and fuzzy pup to curl up beside me and keep me warm, I am ready for a long winter’s sleep. Have already had my hot whiskey and lemon, and am getting ready to hibernate!

    1. Colleen says:

      Hibernation…I can’t tell you how many times in the past I wished that was a real option! But what we do sort of half-hibernate, don’t we? I certainly would rather nap more and talk to people less than in the warmer months. I hope you’re still cozy and warm down in NY!

  2. lauratfrey says:

    Looks like there’s a cold snap out east. Not sure where you live, but here in Edmonton is ridiculously warm, 8 degrees this week. We could do with some cold!

    1. Colleen says:

      I am in Toronto and it remains really effing cold here! The snow has built up so much, and melted so little, that the snowbanks look like they’re divided into geological strata… I hope it’s still manageable in Edmonton!

  3. heidenkind says:

    Same! I love snow and skiing. Although we haven’t had much of either this season

    1. Colleen says:

      How are things now? Our snow is looking a permanent fixture these days.

  4. Sylvia says:

    This is a lovely lyrical tribute to winter. I too love the quiet that accompanies a snowfall, and the pristine whiteness of it before humans despoil it. But that’s the extent of my praise. I’m at an age when a fall could be catastrophic, so every venture outside in filled with anxiety. By the way, I’ve missed your writing the past four months.

    1. Colleen says:

      Have you tried nordic poles for winter walking? You can take the grippy feet off and then they stick into the snow and stabilize you.

      Thanks for the kind words! I missed having time for Jam and Idleness, too; I was busy with the better-paying but less original work I do 🙂

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