Northern Blight

My Love-Hate Affair with the Winter

I am standing at my kitchen sink, gazing out the window as the afternoon sun dissolves into the sky. I am supposed to be peeling potatoes for supper but I can’t stop watching the sunset—or the way there is no sunset, really, but only a dreary washing out of color, daylight fading into grayness. So why am I transfixed?

It seems it’s been this way for months, dark at five p.m., the ground covered in a tired layer of snow, though it’s only November.

F.S.C.S.—Future Snowbirds of Canada Society
I have no patience for winter anymore. I’m so tired of slipping on sidewalks, of bundling kids into parkas and listening to weather forecasters go on about how exposed skin will freeze in thirty seconds.

When I retire I’m going to buy a motor home so I can head down to Florida or Arizona every October. I will join the rest of the snowbirds, glory in the fruit trees and the outdoor swimming pools, the need for air conditioning.

Green Christmas?
Then again, the one time we were blessed with Arizona-like record warmth in December, I was too uneasy to enjoy it. I didn’t want bare lawns and melting ice rinks at Christmas, things all out of order. I wanted winter to unfold the way it was supposed to. I like the seasons to arrive, each in turn, the way they are designed to. Their predictability is reassuring, a clear reminder of God’s hand at work.

I should try to remember that, on those minus-twenty evenings (sub-zero, in Fahrenheit)—that it’s supposed to be that cold, and that dark. There are things I can do, anyway, to make the long, gloomy months more tolerable. I could go on a shopping spree for lamps, buy enough to fill every corner of the house with brightness. I could light the fireplace and curl up in front of the flames with that book I’ve been meaning to finish.

Or put aside my worries about hurting myself or looking silly and join my three-year-old on a coast down the tobogganing hill.

Winter revival kit
I too am up for layering on the warm clothing and taking the occasional December stroll. A clear winter night does wonders for getting me into that “feeling alive” mode people are forever craving. There’s the shock of cold air in the lungs, the precise sound of icy snow crunching underfoot. There are the lines of houses lit up for Christmas, the stars and the moon announcing themselves in the darkness, giving everyone another chance to remember the way light in the blackness is a treasure.

Who’s the patron saint of snow?
One Sunday a couple of winters ago, my parish priest led the congregation in a prayer for snow. It seemed an absurd thing to do in our part of the country, but the summer had been a time of drought, and farmers were desperate for the moisture. Nobody was complaining when the snow started flying a couple weeks later.

My griping about winter aside, I guess I’m secretly grateful that it looks like this year will bring an end to the abnormally mild weather. Tomorrow looks promising—chance of flurries, high of –14 C.

Here’s hoping it continues.