Rekindling the Magic of Winter

 

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Scene from a magical winter walk in our neighbourhood.

 

“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.

 

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Winter magic.

 

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.

 

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Another winter scene from our neighbourhood.

The Epiphany

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.

 

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Snow-capped gate posts and snowy winter hedges.

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.

 

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Frost fronds on our window.

 

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

Embracing Winter

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.

 

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Snow-capped tree ornament.

 

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.

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Winter walks are magical at night, when the glow of the lights illuminates everything.

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.

 

Image Credits:

All photos by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2013 madlyinlovewithlife

18 thoughts on “Rekindling the Magic of Winter

  1. Dear Jeannie,
    Oh, this post couldn’t have come at a better time :) In fact I read it a few times to take it all in. My hubby & I too, realised that we were getting so grumpy about the weather, blaming one thing or another on it, and said ‘gosh, it didn’t seem so bad when we were kids!’

    Now I see ‘why’ it seems ‘worse’ now. Diving into photography has also helped me to overcome this, as one of the fun challenges is to go out there in unusual conditions and see what we can come up with! But as you say, it’s also about dressing properly for the weather ;)

    I don’t know if you know of the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterson? I discovered it in New York and fell in love with it. I think it shows a lot of the wonder of the world through a child’s eyes, and how adults can lose it. You ‘winter’ post really reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes ;))
    As always, thank you for sharing!

    • Hello Takami! Thank you so much. Before my new attitude shift, I used to laugh, often saying that I was “solar-powered”, because I’m such a sun-lover. But then I realized that that sort of thinking made my happiness conditional on something external, and something that was so incredibly changeable at that. It meant that I was more prone to getting into a funk on cloudy days. Not surprisingly, I literally felt tired and low energy on those kinds of days. So I finally stopped saying that and now I like to think that I’m powered by the sun that shines within myself. And you know, as strange as that sounds, it made a difference. Now, when cloudy days come along, I feel more energy than I used to and often I don’t really notice the cloud. Of course, I’m a continual work-in-progress and I fully admit that I certainly have preferences and there are still times that I get frustrated by the weather now and again. But at least now I understand that I’m the only one who can choose my own attitude about it.

      And what a coincidence that you should mention Calvin and Hobbes! A dear friend of mine just recently recommended it to me and I’ve literally just ordered a Calvin and Hobbes book from the library. I think I will enjoy reading it.

      As always, thank you for your very thoughtful and interesting comments. Enjoy the rest of your day (no matter what the weather!). :)))

      • Thank you so much for your reply! You’re absolutely right, there are times when we’ll feel under the weather every now and then, but we can always try to control how we react to these external forces.

        I’m thrilled to know you’ll be reading Calvin and Hobbes soon! I think you’ll enjoy it very much, and how nice to know another friend heartily recommended it to you as well :)))

  2. Jeannie, this is a beautiful post — and so, so true! Just recently I’ve been trying to get back to my walking, and I’ve been doing it faithfully, but when the cold weather came, I immediately thought of our harsh winter last year and thought, Well, there goes the walking. But then I did just as you say so eloquently: I changed my attitude about the weather, I embraced it, and now I simply bundle up and go out anyway. I figured I could complain and just not go out (and feel mentally and physically like crap) or “brave the elements” and enjoy the walk. And you know what? If it’s raining or snowing or windy or just plain bitter-cold, after a while I don’t care anymore. I’m walking! So thank you, thank you for your inspirational words, which will KEEP me walking and going outside. And, oh yes, I must tell you: beautiful photos! Your neighborhood looks like a wonderful place to live! :)

    • Thank you so much, Debra! Your description of walking outside, regardless of the weather, is the same thing that happened to me when I committed to walking daily. As long as I dress properly, after a couple of blocks, I get into the rhythm of the walk and the weather ceases to matter. And I’m glad you liked the photos. That particular day (it was last December) we experienced one of the most magical winter walks we’ve ever had in the city. Have a great evening! :))

  3. What a wonderfully captured series of shots Jeannie. I used to LOVE winter!! I don’t know what happened but as I grow older I’m afraid I must admit that I’ve slipped into the chronic grumbling category! I do know what you mean though…I guess I will have to start looking at it as the glass is half full rather than empty! :) Have a wonderful holiday season my friend :)

    • Hey Sam! You are certainly not alone, my friend—I think there’s a tendency for us adults to find more and more things to complain about with each passing year. And the weather is certainly a common source of complaints. As I said, I was definitely one of those people, big time. But I’ve honestly been able to change my attitude about the weather and it’s made a big difference to how I approach the day each morning and I feel better for it. But it didn’t happen all at once. I had to keep reminding myself that I wanted to see “the glass half full”, as you said. Eventually, I turned it around. Though I admit there are still days every now and again where I revert to old habits. But try it and see if you notice anything different! Wishing you a very happy holiday season too, Sam! :))

  4. What wonderful reading about winter, dear Jeannie. It is so true that as adults we are continually complaining about winter weather but as children we were outside enjoying it. Yes a change of attitude is what many of us need to learn to embrace winter. I try to get out everyday with Chloe to walk around the neighbourhood taking photos. I even got her a little coat for the first time this winter. My husband thought I was wasting my money stating “She will never wear that” But Chloe jumps right up to put it on.

    I loved the photos of your neighbourhood in winter Jeannie.
    Love your blog Jeannie, you are such a gifted writer, something I have always wished I could do.
    I thoroughly enjoy reading all your stories.
    Have a wonderful Thursday evening~

    • Hello Dianne! I’m delighted to hear that you and your sweet Chloe get out for lots of walks, even in winter weather—I’ll bet she looks so cute in her little winter coat! And I certainly understand that people such as your husband must deal with winter in a different way. Thank you so much for your kind and appreciative words, my friend. Wishing you a very happy evening. Stay warm and happy and enjoy your walks with Chloe!

  5. Pingback: Pooh and Piglet Forever: On Life-long Friendship and Childhood Books « madlyinlovewithlife

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