Thursday, December 17, 2015

Childhood Winter Memories

We’ve had one large snowfall this season, and it melted very quickly. Now the landscape is brown and grey. It’s that weird in-between temperature where it’s not quite cold enough for a winter coat, but too cold for just a sweater. I’m either underdressed or overdressed.

Truth be told, I like winter. The cold doesn’t really bother me that much, and I spend a lot of time outdoors in it. Really, I hate being hot and winter is the antithesis of the summer heat. I’m sluggish when it’s hot, I feel lazy and gross and the sun gives me headaches.

I also enjoy the shorter days. I’m a night person. I become more introspective, and something happens after the sun goes down that allows me to tap into a more creative side of my brain. I enjoy the beauty of nighttime, the lengthening of shadows as the sun sinks in the sky. I enjoy lighting candles and the pleasant surprise when I look at the clock and it’s only 6:30 but it feels like 9:00. I get a little lift “whoo hoo, there’s still plenty of time in the evening!”

I do wish it would snow. This grey/brown scene out the window is enough to make anyone depressed. When it snows I still feel that bubble of delight in my chest like I did when I was a child. Or waking up to a snow covered winter majesty. I hear the waves of harp music playing in my head. When I was younger, winter meant all kinds of fun outdoor activities.

Our school bus passed the local ski hill, Pine Knob and I would peer out the window to see if the hill was blowing snow yet, or if the chair lifts were circulating. When ski season started, every Friday I would rush home from school, get on my gear and get up to Pine Knob as quick as I could. I LOVE to ski. As an adult it’s gotten incredibly expensive to ski without the student discount I got through the Ski Club. But I still love to roll those memories through my head. Locking my skis on the rack on the side of my Mom’s Intrepid, the sweaty, cold smell of the lodge basement where we checked in and bought passes. The spot at the top of the chair lifts where we would meet up with our friends for the night.

I remember the hills too, the Moguls, Phase One, the Wall, the Bunny Hill, Mansion Run, The Quarter Mile. I can still imagine what each hill looks like and what it felt to ski down it.  

Ice skating was also a big part of winter time. We had a large pond behind our house growing up and my brother and I would shovel it off and smooth it out. I’d figure skate, imagining I was in the Olympics, or my brother’s friends would come over and we’d play hockey. I remember the back and forth pattern of the snow shovel, as I went line by line across the pond, trying to get the ice as smooth as possible.

Probably the thing I did most in the winter was walk through the woods with the dog. We have these old snowmobile suits from the seventies and they are amazing! Hideously ugly, brown with orange and gold stripes, but warm and keeps the snow off of you completely. I still use them to take care of the animals in the winter. When I was real young, my mom used to make me put plastic bags over my feet and a large rubber band to keep out the water.

I’d walk through the silent snow covered woods with nothing but the panting of the dog as he scampered and buried his nose in the powder, and my own echoed breathing in my head under my hat.

We’d also go sledding under the power lines, in the hills where we’d ride dirt bikes in the summer. They were some awesome sledding hills/cliffs, but the walk back up was brutal at times.  

The winter time is also a great time for reflecting, learning new skills, and a bit of relaxation. With a farm, spring, summer and fall are such a busy time of year that I’ve come to appreciate winter for a whole new reason. The garden is settled, the animals are organized and only need daily up keep. The firewood is stacked and Zach and I enjoy spending evenings together indoors; reading, watching movies, drawing, crocheting or knitting. Zach likes to wood work or leather work in the winter.

I also love the clothing of the winter time. I love warm sweaters, scarves and hats. I live in hats in the winter, even in the house. I’ve even been known to wear one to bed. I love knee socks and flannel nightgowns, it’s all so cozy!

And I love the food of winter. Stews, and soups, casseroles, roasts and crock pot dishes… the hearty meat and potato meals that stick to your ribs. And hot cups of coffee, tea and hot cocoa. I also love a cup of broth in the evenings.

For some reason every year after Christmas my Dad would suggest we go to the Detroit Institute of Arts. In a way, it became an unofficial winter tradition as well.

I remember building snowmen and snow forts with my friends on the playground at recess.  We’d make awesome snowmen and then the boys would destroy them the second recess. Us girls would even make signs asking them nicely to leave our snowman alone…then they’d wreck the sign and the snowman too. I told Zach about this the other day and he laughed and said that the sign probably made things worse….boys!

I enjoy the cyclical rhythm of the changing seasons. For me, the obvious change in weather, the different colors of the landscape the smells of the world around me, connect me even deeper to the earth. Winter is a time of rest, where we recuperate from the year before and prepare for the year ahead. I embrace that.

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