Since November we’ve had days of dangerously cold windchill, weeks of steel-gray skies, and snow. Around here, that’s known as a mild winter. It’s all relative of course. Last year the cold and snow were so relentless that even the long-suffering evergreens began to die. They froze during the winter and spent the summer turning brown and dropping needles. I think the trees caught a break this year, and so did we.
Mild or not, this is the time of year that people begin to lose their patience with the season. A friend who’s experiencing her first Midwest winter recently asked me (with an awful lot of hope in her voice) when spring arrives. I tried to be vague and said something like, “Oh, April’s a nice month here.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that spring weather typically doesn’t arrive until May. And even then, don’t ditch your coat.
Yet winter isn’t all drudgery. For me, it’s had its share of good things too. In October, I posted a list of seasonal favorites and thought that winter was owed one too. In no particular order, some highlights of my winter so far:
- Winter hiking: In deep winter, the woods are quiet and peaceful, seemingly abandoned by people and animals alike. Last month, we hiked through a conservancy near our house on a perfect winter day: temps in the 30s, blue sky, no wind. It was even nice enough to hang our hammock and make hot chocolate on the trail. Truthfully, there haven’t been many perfect winter days like that one.
- Salt Lake City: Last month I took a solo trip to Salt Lake City for a work conference. I saw little beyond the immediate downtown but loved the views (and room service).
- Wearable blankets: I’m grateful to the people who decided that ponchos, blanket sweaters, and shawls deserved a comeback. Granted, I had trouble finding some that didn’t look as if I had pulled them off the back of a sofa, but at least no one has mistaken any of them for a Snuggie.
- Skiing: Growing up, winter always meant ski season. I don’t get out as much anymore, but in January we revisited one of the ski hills of my childhood. It’s a fancier place nowadays (state-of-the-art snow-making equipment, lift ticket scanners) but the views and runs and French fries are still the same.
- A new book: I started the year by reading the novel Americanah. I first heard about the book when its author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was interviewed on NPR. You can listen to the interview here. On some level, the book was an easy read but it also gave me a lot to think about, stirring up unsettling questions about immigration, race, racism, and stereotypes. Perhaps most uncomfortably, I could glimpse myself in some of the book’s white characters which was a lesson in itself.
- Latte lessons: We drink a lot of coffee in our house, and even more in the winter. Last week, my husband tutored me in latte-making. (Once upon a time I was a Starbucks barista but the machines were automated so frothing milk was the only skill I learned.) Our home machine isn’t automated so it requires a lot more precision and elbow grease. Next up: latte art that doesn’t look like a decaying leaf.