The sun is striking for higher spots in the sky. It doesn't leave us quite as early as it did a month or so before. Can you feel it? Spring is coming. Not here yet, but it is coming. But just because expectation lifts our heads and hearts doesn't mean this moment should be neglected and tossed away just for the anticipation of warmer seasons. Winter has its reasons. Just like we rely on summer for its heat and seemingly never-ending days, winter brings contrast and an opportunity to rest.
I know, winter can be long. Sometimes unbearably so with its wind, cold and dark. But I think sometimes I need to remind myself there is much to glory in. This changing of the season is nothing we can control. It happens. We don't have to control because we can't. The only thing left to us is what we embrace of the change and the daily ritual we superimpose on the shifting light patterns. An uncomplicated simplicity.
Maybe that just sounds like a bunch of bunk. Really, come now! Embrace winter? Take in the cold and call it good? But I really do think so. I'm earnest here. The bitter cold days come right after busy harvest days. Where, in fall, my muscles ache and my mind is scattered from all that needs to be done, or I feel compelled to do before the hard frosts come and the snow lies deep, winter is still. It calls for us to slow down and catch up with ourselves.
So how to make the shift from survival and merely waiting the season through to becoming engaged in the landscape that plays out before us. How to make the winter part of us, rather than just a dark blip between fall and spring?
I think it's individual. There are opportunities within all of our lives, in our rituals and schedules for celebrating this season and its cloistered feeling. I thought I'd share what works for me. Feel free to dismiss, feel free to adopt, feel free to sift through what your days are comprised of and make your own list. I do think it's a community thing, where our own individual ideals and adaptations become a communal celebration of our seasonality rather than cause for a bunch of adults to get together and gripe about the cold. We live in Canada. We live in the Prairies. There is so much here to celebrate, shout about, gather up and revel in, regardless of the season.
So here goes my little sharing effort of the beautiful stuff of winter....
- Candles and fire. By fall we are ready to abandon sitting out in the screen porch to go cuddle in by the fire and its glow.
- Long simmered suppers, broths, teas, crunchy nuts and chocolate. Food, really, it's all about food. Regardless of the season! But winter is a great excuse to use whipping cream, make a stew, pinch perogies, make sausage, smoke bacon, brew some fresh-roasted coffee. Bake, dice vegetables for a soup, make a pudding, roast some nuts for a salad topping. For me, it seems there's more time in winter to add the little flourishes to your plate.
- Essential oils and taking a few moments to care of yourself. Winter can be hard on the skin. I'll likely post about this in a bit. But having some shea butter-based moisturizer and lip balm goes a long way. The shea butter helps coat your skin in a non-greasy way that protects it from what's going on outside, namely cold, dry air. Exfoliate and moisturize in the shower. Spritz an uplifting or calming essential oil blend in the shower to start or end your day the way you need to. I love blends with neroli, elemi, frankincense and fir needle at this time of year. Keep showers brief and moisturize while your skin is still damp. Do yoga. Breathe. Build a sauna. That's a little private joke I have with my husband. He says we already have a sauna. It's called the ice fishing shack. We just need to pull it into the backyard, light the wood stove and then throw a bunch of snow on it. Sauna, done! Not exactly what I had in mind, mind you!
- Heading out into the cold and then heading back in to the warm. I love the rush of rosy cheeks as warm air hits your face. I think consciously thinking about the contrasts within each day helps the time pass. Going out splitting wood in the cold and bringing it in by the armful to make a fire. Sending the children out to play and then undressing from their snowy jackets and hats by the fire with hot chocolate at the ready. Coming in to the house with golden glowing lights shining out after an evening out visiting with friends. Passing from the cold or dark into the light or warmth. I love it when I remember to be mindful of this contrast. I think that's the key, it's not always a "doing" but more a perspective that keeps the grouchiness at bay for me. Full confession here though, I am not always successful at keeping the grumpiness away. Yikes! Note to self, giggle and laugh more!
- Little rituals make all the difference. For me, it's a cup of something in the evening with a book or podcast. Curled up in bed, on the couch, by myself or with my husband. It might be tea, it might be wine, it might be bourbon. Or another ritual is to continue bringing in stuff from the garden. Not vegetables or berries. I'm talking pine branches, willow branches or old seed pods. The spruce and pine smell magnificent. The willow sprouts leaves. The seed pods add interest. Ritual is also picking a scarf to bundle up in or picking out my favourite, warmest mittens from my friend, Kristel. Putting on my Muck boots which I love despite the wear they are beginning to show. They feel perfect. They function well. They remind me of my husband and his practicalities as they were a birthday gift a few years ago. All the super-cute shiny boots I bought before didn't last a month before cracking and disappointing in an entirely non-functional way. Now, I have the hallowed Mucks!!
- Tidying. Winter seems spare. And to match the season, it's my favourite time to purge and get rid of things that don't function well in our time or space or that drag us down. Too much stuff, too much kitsch will do nothing but keep you from being sane and calm. I love to take the opportunity of not having the constant call of yard work and garden chores to go through a closet or drawer and make space. It feels like breathing or some sort of yoga. The act of purging makes me more conscious about the things I bring into the house and whether an items is really worth both the money and the effort it will take to keep in our home. If it's cheap but has a certain essence of junk, forget it. It's not worth it. It's not worth the time it took me to make the cash to buy it and it's certainly not worth the time I will take to get rid of it later. Simplify your cleaning rituals. Throw out the unnecessary bottles of junk. Keep vinegar, ammonia, borax and some bleach. Maybe keep some beeswax and mineral oil on hand to polish a cutting board. Keep your rags clean and folded. Sweep daily. Tidy after you are finished a task. Enjoy the fact snow-packed paths mean dirt isn't getting tracked in everyday in the volumes summer brings.
So, there they are. A few thoughts. Take 'em, leave 'em but I do think we need to collectively keep making winter a good thing. We live here after all. There are so many wonderful things to do than be crushed by it. Enjoy the low light knowing it will make the hot sun of summer all the more magnificent.