I was going to post a follow up to last week’s Top Tuesday post about celebrity role models for girls, focusing this time on fictional characters, but I want to take some more time to think through my list. Look for that one next week. Instead, in honor of the snow storm we should be getting by the time you read this, I am making a list of my favorite things about my favorite season: winter. I know, I know, you think I’m crazy. How could I love a season with so much snow and cold? Honestly, I’ve never understood people who hate winter weather. I think they just have no sense of adventure. There is so much more to love about this season. Let’s get started.
1. Snow – Come on. You seriously don’t like snow?
Are you sure? You don’t love it when your kids are so bundled up to play in it you can only tell them apart by height? You don’t love hot chocolate after you’ve been outside making a snowman? You don’t love coming in from a drive in the snow, getting into pajamas and knowing you can stay inside and read all evening? You don’t think it’s beautiful? You don’t find it the slightest bit haunting when it flies through the streetlights at night and the wind howls at the windows? You don’t love making a snow fort with the kids?
2. Barren beauty – I love the bursting green of Spring. I love the maturing life of Summer and the wistful, golden vintage of late Summer fields. I love the changing leaves of Fall, the urgency of Autumn wind. But nothing is so hauntingly beautiful as winter. The bare branches swaying against a shifting grey sky, the woodsmoke curling upward, the fields lying fallow and forlorn, the razor darts of ice on a just-freezing pond, the wisps of weaving snow following the wind up a country road like ghostly fish to the half-remembered pool of their infancy…it’s all too much sometimes. It breaks my heart.
3. Winter clothes – Look, complain all you want about being cold – winter clothes are just cooler than summer options. Tell me you don’t have a favorite sweater (or three), gloves and a scarf you love, an ugly flannel shirt you’re inordinately fond of, a just-right pair of jeans, a pea-coat you’re glad to put on for the first time every year…I have a drab green Air Force field jacket older than I am that I bought at a flea market in high school, and I just can’t think of being happy with any other jacket. It’s a part of me. We’re very close.
4. Night walk through the snow – This could probably be a subpoint under #1, but it is unique enough to warrant its own spot. Every year, any time we get a major snowstorm or blizzard, I bundle up sometime around midnight and take a walk. The town is deserted, the roads are untouched by plows, and the only sound is the wind whipping the snow around the brick buildings downtown. It’s my only chance to make snow angels in the middle of Broadway. It reminds me of the power of nature, the power, ultimately, of God. Which leads me to:
5. Psalm 147:16-17 – “He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?” Psalm 148:8 – “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word.” Job 38:22-23 - ”Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?”
6. Owning a 4×4 – Call me a hick if you must, but let me take you tubing behind my Tracker first. I promise you will have a blast. For as long as I can remember we have been doing this with friends every winter. You hook a sled or (ideally) a car hood to a tow rope connected to the back of a 4×4 or a four-wheeler and skim down the road at 30 mph or off through a drifted field. Nothing compares. It’s more exciting and terrifying then snowboarding, and I love snowboarding.
7. Sledding – It has only been in the last few years I’ve gotten back into conventional sledding, and I have my daughter to thank for this. Since she’s still too small to be dragged behind a truck (that was fun to type) we stick to the tried and true gravity powered sledding of yesteryear. Our town’s few available options (Memorial Hill in the park and the driveway to the loading ramp next to the junior high school – I really hope no one from child services is reading this) are just right for Yosi – they provide some genuine excitement, but aren’t long or fast enough to be more than she can handle.
8. Movies – Look, any list I make of my favorites things about any season will include my favorite movies to watch during that season. Late spring/early summer is the right time for The Thin Red Line and Jurassic Park, and no other time will do. I don’t make the rules. Winter movies include anything involving adverse weather (doesn’t have to be snow, but it helps), fantasy epics (though not necessarily science fiction), horror/suspense, the works of the German Expressionists, and, strangely enough, war films. Like I said, I don’t make the rules. Of course, any good film can be watched at any time, but when it comes to fun filled movie marathons, winter has its own distinct requirements.
9. My blue hat – Oh, my blue hat. How do I explain it to you? I’ve had this hat since my junior year of high school, which was 12 years ago. If you pick a random day between November and March on any of the years since then you have a solid fifty percent chance of seeing me in this hat. I suppose there’s nothing about it that makes it intrinsically better than other knit sockhats, but has become indelibly a part of my cold weather psyche.
10. Our anniversary – The first day of our honeymoon we woke up to snow. And then we drove through it for the next 16 hours, on a trip that should have taken 10. When we got to the mountain road to our cabin in the hills above the Shenandoah valley in Virginia, we got stuck on a steep grade and just about sent the car over a drop off into the woods below. Finally a saintly resident came along in his Nissan Pathfinder and pulled us the rest of the way up. And in all of it, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. On our first anniversary we stayed at a bed and breakfast and it snowed again, and we had a snowball fight and walked through the woods. If we did it again we would probably have a summer wedding, but our January date does make us walk a little bit closer, and cuddle a little bit warmer.
11. Superbowl – We’ll make this a combo for the NFL playoffs, the college bowl season and
the big game itself. I am not a fanatic sports follower by any means. I love the NBA but I’m no expert, and I love soccer but have no real way to follow foreign leagues. I like good football but my knowledge of players is limited to stars. Still, few things are as exciting as piling into a living room full of friends and watching the biggest single sports event of the year, with all the ridiculous pomposity that surrounds it.
12. Calvin and Hobbes – Feel free to insert your favorite comic strip or comic book series here, but for me nothing compares to Bill Watterson’s masterpiece. It is brilliant. It is hilarious. It is wonderously well-drawn. It is imaginative. And it is nothing if not narcissistic and sarcastic. It makes social and artistic commentary without being pretentious. Watterson achieved the elusive level of comedy that allowed him to intentionally make a lame joke and have it be hilarious for the irony of having made a lame joke. I keep hoping that will work for me one of these days. Alas. On a snowy day curl up on the couch with a cup of tea or hot chocolate with marshmellows and relive the blessing/curse of being a precocious six year old. To fit the setting, Watterson’s books always have an ample supply of snow-related strips, culminating in the classic work Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.
13. A screaming kettle – I am a coffee person, and 4 times out of 5 I prefer it to tea. But when I want tea, tea is what I want and coffee will not do. It is one of the delights of being human to heat water on the stove, hear the building steam bursting out in a comforting shriek and pouring a cup of tea. It is the kind of experience that C.S. Lewis describes in his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer – a delight our senses recognize without our minds having to name it, to which we respond with the silent, wordless prayer of creaturely joy.
14. My birthday – This day falls about a week and a half before the Vernal Equinox, and it bridges winter and spring for me every year. Sometimes there is snow, sometimes it is warm enough to be outside without a jacket. A few of the braver plants are starting to soften for spring. It has been my choice the last few years to make a big salad, cut up as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I can get my hands on, put them into bowls, open a bottle of Riesling (the only wine for spring), and talk for hours to my wife while we slowly pick at the colorful offerings. It sort of closes out my favorites season, and prepares me for spring. I am one for rituals.
15. A contemplative spirit – What I love most about winter, and what I guess is a summation of many other points on this list, is the cultivation of a patient, quiet mind, the necessary waiting and the subtler pleasures, being forced inward for a time, long afternoons of reading and thinking and talking because we cannot go outside, and the aching beauty of a still and slumbering world around us. Spring will come. But for a time we are denied it, and we are forced to recognize a glory we might be tempted not to choose even for a few short months, and we are better for having it forced on us. Cold skin appreciates the warmth of friendly doors, and cold lips offer prayers of thanks for a warm drink pressed to them. We need winter, friends, and when we learn to love this season we experience something of the cycle of life every year.