“Warm fire—books–comfort—safety from storm—
our cats on the rug. Moonlight,” said Barney,
“would you be any happier now if you had a million dollars?”
~ Barney Snaith, talking about winter,
from L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle
Taking a Cold, Hard Look at Winter
My partner and I genuinely love winter. But we usually keep that sentiment to ourselves because it seems that most others around us do not share our enthusiasm for winter. Truth be told, this appreciation for winter is a relatively new thing. Five years ago, I discovered that I had become, like most others around me, a chronic grumbler about winter and, in all honesty, about the weather in general. It seemed that the more years that passed, the narrower became the range of weather I didn’t complain about.
One Cold, Blustery Day…
One cold and snowy day, I went out to do errands, feeling more than a little ornery about the weather. I was acutely aware that I was not happy, and I sincerely asked myself, “Why not?”. “Because it’s winter—and it just sucks”, was the first thing that popped into my mind, followed by all the usual reasons: it’s cold, it’s inconvenient, it’s harder to walk in, harder to drive in, it takes more planning… I could easily list myriad reasons.
But this time, it dawned on me that my usual answers didn’t justify me being unhappy. I’d grown up in cold Canadian winters, winters which were even harsher and colder than the ones we have in Calgary. Yet I don’t remember complaining about winter as a child. In fact, I don’t recall any of my siblings or childhood friends complaining about winter either. I only remember rather enjoying it all.
Some of the most exhilarating memories from my youth were born out of winter experiences. I was out in it every day, walking to and from school and playing outside, even on the coldest of Canadian prairie winter days, which can often go down to -40 degrees. We would bundle up in our warmest winter clothing and get out there everyday to make snow forts, to toboggan, to go skating, to throw snowballs, to make snowmen and snow angels. There was never a day that I’d stay indoors all day because it was too cold to go out. I didn’t really think about winter one way or another—I simply enjoyed it as much as all the other seasons.
So what happened? What was different now? Given that the winters in Calgary are milder than the winters of my childhood, why had I become one of the grumbling masses? Then I realized that the grumbling masses I was referring to are adults. Children just seem to naturally go with the flow. And it struck me that if I could love winter as a child, then I could love it again as an adult—I just had to don that pure, child-like acceptance of it and look out once again with wonder-filled eyes. I realized that being able to enjoy winter again is all about attitude. And, essentially, it’s a choice.
The Secret to Rekindling the Magic
The most important secret to finding the magic of winter again is having the right attitude. But there is another secret—you have to have the right clothing. Because being cold, no matter how you slice it, is not enjoyable. Only if one is toasty warm can one get out there and reap the beauty to be found in winter. So my partner and I took an inventory of our winter clothing and filled in a big gap by investing in high quality, expensive down-filled coats, thermal underwear, and warm toques, boots and gloves, suitable for even the coldest days of winter.
December. Early snows and Orion. The pale fires of the Milky Way. It was really winter now—wonderful, cold, starry winter. How Valancy had always hated winter! …But now she loved winter. Winter was beautiful… almost intolerably beautiful. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour—the purest vintage of winter’s wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite winter sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice all over the windows… Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings—torn, twisted, fantastic shadows. Great silences, austere and searching… The sun suddenly breaking through grey clouds… Icy-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cozy living-room, with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats, seemed cosier than ever. Every hour brought a new revelation and wonder.
~ L. M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle
I’d always enjoyed the warm, cozy feeling of cocooning indoors, reading by firelight and candlelight, cooking up hearty, belly-warming dishes and revelling in long winter evenings, but I was missing out on a large component of winter—going outside to fully experience its hidden and subtle beauty. And this beauty is not only to be found in the countryside or a natural park—it can be found right here, smack-dab in the middle of the city.
With a fresh, new attitude, we bundled up in our new, warm winter wear and embraced winter. We walked more, every day if we could, all winter long. We began to love going out, even more so if it was snowing and very cold—the colder it was and the harder it snowed, the more beautiful it was and the more fun we had. We got playful again, making snow angels in soft, fresh, light snow, and snowmen in sticky snow. We went out for winter picnics in the park, and walks in the woods, delighting in seeing animal tracks in the snow.
And now, every winter, we take the time to simply admire its beauty—the sunlight on the snowdrifts and the way purple and blue-hued shadows pop out of seemingly white snow on bright sunny days. We admire the ice fog, the wind-sculpted snowdrifts, the spectacular mornings of bright sunshine lighting up a sparkling, frost-covered world. I bought ice lantern molds and, as soon as its cold enough, I make a few ice lanterns, put candles in them, place them out on our balcony, and light them in the evenings. Mostly, whether we are outside enjoying winter, or looking at it from the inside, we simply have a different attitude—we stopped complaining and a new appreciation for winter naturally grew.
I’d flipped over the coin. Whereas, before, what easily rolled off of my tongue were the many reasons I disliked winter, it wasn’t long before the opposite happened: I could easily fill pages with glowing descriptions of the beauty and magic of winter. The more I looked, the more I saw.
Enchanted Walks in our Neighborhood
One of our favourite old neighborhoods in Calgary is only a few blocks from our place and we love to walk there as often as we can. I took these shots one beautiful December day as the snow fell like fat, downy feathers from the sky, clinging to everything and taking the sharp edges off of the world. Snow isn’t always the same consistency, and this particular snowfall was what I call perfect. The conditions have to be just right for this kind of magic to happen. And, oh, when it does, I want nothing more than to grab my warm winter coat and head out into it. It’s truly magical.
Looking for Beauty and Magic
Nothing feels more powerless than getting upset about something we have no control over. And we can’t control the weather. But we do have control over our attitude and what we choose to focus on. There is beauty in all kinds of weather—one just has to look for it. I have this theory that we get more of whatever we give our attention to, whether we want it or not. Complain about the cold and inconvenience of winter, and life will hand us more of that. Look for beauty and magic, and the Universe will conspire to give us more of that.
I took these shots on my iPhone and played with them to give each one a painterly, magical look, to better match the enchanted feeling of those neighborhood winter walks.
All photos by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2013 madlyinlovewithlife