Yes, it’s that time of year again.
The New Year isn’t so new and fresh, anymore. The Valentine’s chocolate is (mostly) eaten. But no matter what the groundhog proclaimed about spring a few weeks back, where I live we’re just settling into the real endurance run: another month, if not two, of cold, slushy, unpredictable weather.
I call it the long tail of winter.
Now, if you happen to live in Victoria, or even Vancouver, you may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. The cherry blossoms are out on YOUR trees. Gloat your heart out: you deserve to. Our trees, out here in the Atlantic, won’t see buds ’til May. Our shoveling season is just getting started.
I love where I live: it is my home, and my roots go deep here. I lived elsewhere – on both the west and Arctic coasts of Canada, in Asia and Europe and in other parts of the Maritimes – for fifteen years. By the time I moved back to PEI seven years ago, I was more than ready to appreciate all the familiar quirks the Island had to offer. But every February for the past seven years, as the winter drags on longer than is civilized, I’ve had a fleeting moment of wondering what the heck I was ON when I packed my bags and hightailed it home.
It’s lovely in Thailand this time of year. Just sayin’.
If, however, you – like me – do not have the travel budget for a respite from winter, I offer some relatively green and inexpensive suggestions to warm you, heart and soul, while the snow still howls.
1. If you can’t beat it, join it. Go sledding.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/caseycanada/4314851216/
Yes, I realize the snow is chilly. And wet. And dries out the skin. And that none of these things is particularly pleasant, in and of itself. Strangely, though, getting outside on a sparkling winter day can actually be quite exhilarating. Add to that the high speed, I-could-expire-at-any-moment thrill of careening down a hill on a tube/crazy carpet/meal hall tray (ahem) and the rosy cheeks from chugging back UP said hill in the cold, and you have good clean classic Canadian winter fun.
2. Have a hibernation party.
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/jenkim/4230741504/
If the days are gray and slushy, sledding may not sound like such an entertaining prospect. Those of us more inclined towards indoor pursuits in the first place have an advantage, in winter: our hibernatory tendencies become more socially acceptable. But you don’t have to hole up alone: invite friends over for a cozy afternoon or evening of totally, shamelessly sedentary amusements. Play poker. Break out the old crokinole board. Walk on the wild side and convince people to try a round of charades: in short, do things that people did for generations before TV and social media and hyperscheduling made our winters not entirely socially distinguishable from summer.
3. Purge the winter flab of your living space.
I know, this one may not exactly sound like the equivalent of a beach vacation. And no, housecleaning isn’t entirely my idea of a great time. But as somebody wise once said about writing, I don’t like the writing, I like having written. Me, I like having housecleaned, especially on a scale grand enough to clear out a previously unusable corner of my home. A new perspective – even on the mundanity of, say, your sock drawer, really perks things up, and when better to achieve that than when the long tail of winter has you stuck inside anyhow? Plus you can list the things you’ve outgrown on, say, your local usedeverywhere site! And save the profits towards a winter vacation NEXT year!
You can thank me with a postcard.
4. Cozy up with a hot drink.
Photo credit (replete with recipe): The Kitchn’s hot apple ginger toddy: perfection.
There’s nothing lovelier than a nice hot mug cupped between chapped and chilly fingers, and a wintertime drink warming your belly. Summertime can keep its gimlets and its iced tea: I’ll take something toasty anyday. Especially if there’s a fire to curl up in front of, while sipping.
There are creative and delicious hot drinks for almost any palate: I happen to love Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice tea, Korean yu ja cha, and this recipe for bittersweet hot chocolate. Don’t be stingy with the citrus. Or the whipping cream. Whatever fits.
5. Get some light.
Many of us struggle during these long winters because our bodies simply don’t get enough Vitamin D. Supplements don’t necessarily cut it: it’s light that seems to have a positive impact on the aptly named Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. My practice: when there’s light, I get in it. I take a short walk, or I sit near the window, sunning myself like a cat.
Then I eat the dregs of the Valentine’s chocolate. That helps too.
Still, winter gets loooooong. Sometimes none of these efforts quite succeeds in beating back the winter blues and blahs.
If all of the above should fail, I have one final weapon in my arsenal.
It’s for special circumstances only. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it works.
When it all gets too cold for comfort, I remind myself of the inevitability of spring by singing. Specifically, by singing the last verse of my very favourite never-fail campy classic, the under-rated Bette Midler inspirational hymn, The Rose.
Very loudly. Also, off-key.
When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember, in the winter, far beneath the winter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the Rose.
(Songwriting credit: Amanda McBroom)
Try it. Guaranteed you’ll either believe it by the end, or you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll feel better ’til March.