Often considered a desolate season, we revisit our attitude toward winter.
In early November someone accustomed to a fall characterized by lots of rain, turning leaves and a slow decrease in temperature, came to my hometown. It was freezing and there was a pile of snow half a metre high. The roads, even for a place that regularly gets its first snowfall in October, were deemed treacherous. Outside the temperature was -11°C though, with the wind chill, it felt much colder. To someone unaccustomed to this version of fall, in a temperate climate, it was quite a shock. “Crazy cold,” and “bloody freezing,” was how this person described the weather.
Even to those who have grown up with a fall that is actually identical to winter, emerging much earlier it seems than elsewhere on the planet, and lasting much longer, it takes a certain adjustment. By February there is a sort of frenetic cabin fever, though the complaints begin much earlier. At times they take the form of casual sarcasm or pointed disappointment at the cold and endless snow. “Is winter ever going to end?” seems to be the consensus (well into April). Often with light fading early and being scarce, there is a sense of depression that creeps into conversation. Indeed, casual conversation seems always to veer toward the weather, and not in a complimentary fashion. Part of the ennui has to do with conditions long after the first snowfall has turned the landscape into a snow globe: pristine snow takes on a muddy, splotchy, grey appearance; snowmen become misshapen with a strange and unnatural rotundity, noses haplessly fallen on the ground, their scarves forgotten somewhere; precarious black ice accumulates where Chinooks have melted and freezing temperatures have solidified what was once a blanket of snow. For many, the beauty lasts briefly, if at all.
Embracing winter takes a bit of creative inspiration. I know someone who always hated the season and complained ferociously about it for years. Although this person skied and regularly visited the mountains, the sheer length of winter and its inconveniences were still difficult to bear. Perhaps familiarity had bred contempt. Perhaps there was a sort of snow blindness that had occurred. Then, one day, she decided to take a positive attitude toward winter. A funny thing happened, she began to see the magic of the season. It is the same child-like glee and anticipation that I recognize in people who have never before seen snow. I know people raised in the tropics for whom the arrival of snow is consistently a magical event. The continuing saga of snowflakes, bracing temperatures and the stark landscape are things to be embraced. There is a sense of wonderment at something that they had never before experienced, had only seen in photos and could barely imagine.
Winter comes but once a year and there is no other season like it. A blanket of snow is a magical event. Celebrate it with feasting, festivities and fun. ‘Tis the season of magical transformation.
This original editors letter article first appeared in the Winter 2017/18 issue of City Style and Living Magazine