Weathering The Winter

Almost thirteen years ago, a singer-songwriter named Anna Nalick topped the charts with a song that, in its opening verse, proclaimed on a friend’s behalf that, “Winter just wasn’t my season.” While I wondered (and dissents) if the line in context hinted at a May-December romance, it gave us a nicely-bottled-up out-of-context quote.

Winter just wasn’t my season. Wasn’t, isn’t, probably never will be.

Sometimes, all you can do is stay in, watch the snow fall, and hope it’ll all be over by the time you drive home.

The greatest thing about living in New England is the existence of four distinct seasons. It’s inevitable that, to get my beloved autumn months and the warming-but-not-too-stifling rebirth of spring, you have to weather some kind of winter. But especially in a year when a few weeks of bonus summer led directly into winter’s first cold snap, robbing us of a delightful fall, winter always seems too long for its relative quarter of the seasonal schedule.

In order to make it through winter, you have to find the moments of levity, like these folks ice-skating at Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke.

Unlike the other three seasons, winter is interactive. If spring isn’t your season, you can put up with the rain and the mud and the green vegetation. If summer isn’t your season, you can hide in air conditioning out of the beating rays of the sun. If fall isn’t your season, you can stay home from the fairs and turn up the heat at home. You have to adapt, but you don’t have to engage.

You can’t avoid winter. You have to scrape a fresh layer of ice off the windshield every morning. You have to forego style and comfort for the sake of practicality (and, often, a different meaning of comfort). When it snows, commutes to and from work become longer, stressful, and riskier. If you rent, you have to dance around the schedule your complex throws at you for snow clearing. If you own, you get the joy of cleaning the mess yourself, usually in the dark of night after a full day of work. Engaging with winter is rarely difficult, but often irritating.

Last one in, last one to leave. At least the lot is plowed.

I openly admit that working in an industry that’s generally adversely impacted by winter has had a similar effect on my attitude toward winter. My wife and her students can look forward to a snow day in the worst of storms. For us, there are no snow days. We’re needed at the office, picking up the pieces of a schedule in shambles. We still trade in physical paperwork, so not everything can be stage-managed from the comfort of our second bedroom and a cell phone. Our support crew loses at least a day of work every storm, shifting from their regular jobs to the duties of snow cleanup. And even after the snow has stopped, the bone-chilling cold wreaks havoc on diesel equipment.

Even my best friend, an avid skier, admits that his joy at the prospect of a day on the slopes erodes fast when tempered by the hassle and expense of another snowstorm.

Late at night in downtown Manchester, crews undertake the thankless, Sisyphean task of preparing for the next storm.

But therein lies the trick. Winter is interactive. Winter cannot be avoided. And in order to survive it with a smile, you have to interact with it on your own terms.

You need to appreciate the beauty. You need to find a winter exhibition, like the Ice Castles or a holiday-themed light show. You need to take a winter drive, preferably after the snow has fallen.

You need to find a hobby that requires snow. You need to go skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Or you need to find a group of friends, a big public hill, and a few cheap toboggans.

You need to find something about this seemingly-six-month-long stretch run to spring that puts a smile on your face. Only then can you successfully weather the winter.

Failing that, you need to gather some friends for a movie night or a board game night, or something that keeps you from feeling trapped inside by the cold and the snow. After thirty-six years, that’s as far as I’ve come.

But it’s progress all the same.

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