Last night, I took a walk around 9:45 in the evening. I needed some milk from the corner store and I’d been slumbering in front of the TV for several hours. But, I actually went walking because it was snowing. You heard that correctly. The snow was light and fluffy, and my busy neighborhood of Logan Square seemed to slow down and take on the feeling of being in a Thomas Kincade painting. Bare branches sparkled. Couples walked home hand-in-hand from restaurants, faces gazing down from the snow fall, laughing and discussing the night. Light poured from windows—the same inspiration that Kincade took in creating his style as he used to walk down streets feeling drawn in by the light that insured convivial hearths. It was perfect, like the theater of a snow globe.
“Oh, it’s so cold,” my wife will always say. She opted to remain in the secure confines of the sofa. Wool socks, warm boots, goose down overcoat, toasty gloves, and a scarf. Once properly garbed, there is no need to dread, no need to rush through the winter white display. So often we rush out the door, one stingy jacket and rush to the car, or into the store, or through the parking lot. We’re cold, mildly miserable, and left feeling discontent with the season—a season that has happened and will happen every single year forestalling we all decamp from the Midwest and migrate to southern California.
I have friends who live in Redondo Beach, California. It is basically 75-80°F most every day of the year. They love it. But every time I see their Christmas decorations amidst green grass, it makes me a little sad. The greenery of Christmas began as a tradition, a symbol of life, brought in from the cold to symbolize the power of life to sustain through the winter, as well as the promise of the new life in the spring. It’s precisely the contrast in the two environments that brings so much inspiration and hope to our hearts. It’s our human effort that causes us to bring life indoors, to lift our spirits, to symbolize that while there is chaos and cold, we believe in the struggle of life. And it’s that struggle, which makes it beautiful. Does one enjoy crackling fireplaces in July?
Also consider, there are diminishing returns in sameness, in monoculture or “mono-anything”, for that matter. C.S. Lewis pondered that it’s the first few bites of a perfectly delicious fruit that are the most sensuous, the most valuable to our senses. And so are the changes of season. Soon we will be complaining about the oppressive, still air of the summer evening, yearning for the cold briskness of autumnal winds. The point is: are we always so busy wishing for what is not that we are never able to appreciate what is?
Yes, I had to dig out my car. Yes, I missed some work during the heavy snowfall of this year. But what I appreciated more was the fact that everyone was included. We all had to stop. We all had to slow down. I actually watched normally prickly, disconnected city residents helping each other out of the snow banks for those who absolutely had to report to work. But best of all, I got to bundle up like I hadn’t since I was a kid searching for a sled hill. I made chicken soup and dumplings and caught up on old films, wrapped in a quilt and drinking coffee to taste the flavor of coffee, not just to kick start my system so I could get out the door.
So for the rest of winter, and all the winters to come, take a few steps to enjoy the season at hand:
• Be prepared. Take a couple extra moments to dress warmly for the day. You wouldn’t head for the beach without a swimsuit, sunscreen, and an umbrella. Dress so you can enjoy the walk and the cold air.
• Enjoy the change of weather. There are pros and cons to every season. It might take just a little bit more effort to appreciate the beauties of winter. A winter white street-scape may slow down traffic, but it’s certainly more pleasing the wet, gray, Chicago sludge.
• Appreciate the symbolism of the winter snows. Yes, we have to scrape our cars; yes it takes a few extra moments to dress for the cold. But, take a minute and relate this to the seasons of our life and how valuable it is to slow down and meditate on the somnolence of winter.
And the neighborhood children-the ones protected from school for the danger of cold-well it wasn’t too dangerous for them to be running through the alleys throwing snowballs and making angels in the temporary white canvas.
Benjamin Thompson, MA, LPCC