Jessie Raymond: Embracing the sameness of winter
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a long, cold, snowy winter. Everyone knows that about me. And now here we are, in mid-March, with fresh snow on the ground.
Isn’t it great?
I worried that the winter storm we had last week was going to be the last snowfall of the season.
“Boy, I’m going to miss this,” I said, putting on my heavy coat, insulated boots, hat and mittens and tromping out through the snow to feed the chickens, same as I have done twice a day for the past 962 days or so.
Luckily, I was wrong. This week’s snowfall, along with continued cold temperatures, means I won’t be putting away those heavy boots any time soon. It’s almost like winter is going to last forever!
Of course, I know that isn’t true, but I’m making sure to savor every last minute of cold and damp and gray I can squeeze out of this season. I just can’t get enough of these months of quiet, nearly reclusive living, the colorless landscape, the monotonous daily routine broken only by the occasional near-death experience on icy roads.
Every day when I wake up, I look out over the snow-covered, barren landscape and feel a surge of well-being. This is a real Vermont winter: lots of snow and cold temperatures — and it just never seems to change.
With few exceptions, every winter’s day is the same at our house. We don’t go anywhere, we rarely see people. We just plod along doing chores, going to work, eating like lumberjacks and heading to bed early because there isn’t much else to do.
It never gets old.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me. I have friends who, craving more action, resent that the physical limitations of cold and snow interfere with their normally exciting lives. I don’t have this problem. If you charted my daily ups and downs over time, you’d end up with a straight horizontal line — which is exactly what I’m going for.
I mean, no, we didn’t go on any exotic vacations this winter. But we also didn’t get the flu. Nothing has happened, good or bad, for months on end. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Unfortunately, I know my beloved horizontal line of dullness won’t last much longer: Spring is coming.
In the winter, I run on autopilot. Getting dressed, for example, is effortless: I just put on the same multiple layers of boring gray clothes I’ve been wearing since October. But soon I’ll have to think ahead: With daily 45-degree temperature swings, I’ll spend 20 minutes in the closet every morning debating whether it’s appropriate to wear thermal boot socks with sandals before Memorial Day.
Right now, I don’t have to think much. Or do much. But before long my free time will be filled with cookouts, golf and gardening. Ugh. I get tired just thinking about it.
People say I should look forward to winter ending, but why? I can only come up with two reasons:
1. This is the first year we’ve burned wood for the whole winter, and we had no idea how much we’d need. The answer, it turns out, is “more than we bought.”
So now, instead of lugging armloads of wood into the house every day, we wander around the vicinity of the former woodpile, kicking snowbanks and cheering every time we turn up one more log. If we’re going to keep our pledge to not use the oil furnace, pretty soon we’re going to have to start burning furniture. (It’s OK; now that we’re empty nesters, we have a lot more chairs than we need.)
2. I worry that this months-long stretch of nothingness has not been great for my brain. The plodding sameness of winter days, while comforting, lulls me into an intellectual fog. I think more slowly, and I’ve become absentminded.
Take Saturday at the farm store, for instance. While picking up chicken feed, I also bought a packet of flower seeds (might as well accept the inevitable). I didn’t realize until a few hours later that I had left the seeds on the counter.
Upon my return, the store staff broke into giggles.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing,” one clerk said, handing me the packet. “It’s just — well, these are forget-me-nots.”
Maybe I need spring more than I realize.
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