Learning to Love Winter

I have never been a fan of the cold.

Growing up in Southeast Texas, cold wasn’t something I encountered very often. The few occasions when the thermometer dropped below freezing were rare and therefore exciting. The fantasy of building snowmen or having a “white Christmas” were just that, fantasies. Until I moved to Utah and met the reality.

It wasn’t long before I was sick of snow.

Wet, icicle jeans, chapped red hands, stinging ears and nose, and frozen toes quickly rid me of any illusions of a winter wonderland. The little time I spent outside waiting for the bus or taking out the trash was all the time I was willing to tolerate. When I started driving, I learned the tedious task of defrosting windshields and terror of sliding on icy roads. I My distaste of the season only grew when nerve damage in my hands caused by discomfort in the cold to throbbing pain. I hated how the gray days, cold weather and lack of sunlight made me sluggish and depressed. I grew anxious at the thought of leaving the house to brave the snow, but got tired of spending all my time at home. I was annoyed at how suddenly winter would arrive, and how long it seemed to drag on each year. By 20 there was nothing I liked about it at all.

But I’m changing my mind.

In the last few years, I’ve been learning to appreciate winter. Maybe this is a sign of growing up, or maybe it’s because I no longer have to venture out into the cold, but I’ve Since 2019 I’ve been looking at things in a new light. I’ve started to appreciate the concepts of balance and cycles. I came to appreciate that the world is full of patterns and systems, and that everything has a purpose and a place. I began to think of winter as a balance to the heat and frenzy of summer, an important part of the seasonal cycle that this climate relied on for harmony. Of course I had always known that Utah relied on snowfall as a water-source and tourist attraction (hello to the skiers out there!), but winter provides then just practical resources. I was just to wrapped up in my seasonal blues to see it.

Winter is a time for community.

Winter holidays have been a time to celebrate with loved-ones since before written history. Traditions of bon fires, music and dances, feasts, and ruckus parties are found all around the world. When sunlight is scarce and the freezing winds threaten to cut to the bone, finding joy and building bonds in your community becomes important for sanity and survival. We are social creatures. Most of us live in family units, we have friends, we join clubs, and community pages on social media, go to churches, and chat with co-workers. We strive to build connections because without them, we feel incomplete. And, for thousands of years, we have spent winter-time nurturing those connections. We have parties, send cards, give gifts, make phone calls, and donate time and money to charity. There’s something about the cold that makes us seek warmth in community. But it’s not just about connecting with others

Winter is also about self-connection.

In a time when the ground is too frozen to farm, it becomes a natural time to take break. While few of us are farmers these days, I have noticed that outside of holiday preparations, we seem to slow down when the snow starts to fall. We spend more time indoors, we work a little less and rest a little more. It’s a quieter time, not always literally (kids are also spending more time inside, after-all), but figuratively. The outside world is shut out with the snow. We have more time and space to think and reflect. Sometimes that turns into negative rumination, but with direction and practice, this can be a chance to get to know yourself. It’s a time to look back on the year, and look forward to the next (New Years anyone?). It’s a time to consider who you are, where you have been, what you’ve learned, and who you would like to become.

Winter is a period of rest.

Just like the fields lay fallow, winter is a time to rest and recover. After all the insanity of the holidays are over, there’s few demands on your time and energy. There’s less expectations to be “productive” and more leniency on how you spend your time. Winter naps are somehow considered restful instead of sad. Watching movies is “cozy” instead of “lazy”, and eating and drinking to your fill is expected instead of shamed. We are allowed to give into the urge to relax and recoup, without having to “earn” the right.

Winter still isn’t my favorite season.

Candles and blankets, books and coffee, cheerful decorations and loved ones help to make the season bright- but the sun is still hidden behind snowstorms. My hands and feet are still cold, my car still needs to be defrosted regularly, and ice still sticks to the bottom of my jeans. But I no longer hate winter. The fact is, there’s things to like and dislike about every season. I just had to learn to find the love in winter.

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