29 November 2015


I like winter a lot.  I say that with full acknowledgement that I love being outside and that I love warm weather, and that winter keeps me from enjoying both of these things.  I'm not a skier, and I tend not to spend a lot of time outdoors when it's really cold.  Most of my running is done on a treadmill, which is something that I don't particularly care for.  So when all is said and done, there are many aspects of winter that one could say are fairly negative for me.  However, that doesn't stop me from loving the season, no matter what it may bring.

Because I choose to live in a place with a cold climate, it really is important that I do love the season.  I'm not in northern Canada, of course, so it isn't like winter lasts for nine months where I live, but we do have a long winter season that's quite cold most of the time.  And that makes it important for me to find the things about the season that I really like, so that I don't spend a lot of time thinking negative thoughts and wishing things were other than they actually are.

Most importantly, I love the intimacy.  Because people aren't outside nearly as often, the indoor parts of our life are much more dominant.  To me, there's nothing like coming inside after being out in the cold, enjoying the warmth and the light and the company wherever I am.  Days tend to be darker, so the light is warmer and more inviting.  Because people are together more, the sense of connectedness is stronger.  People can spend more time talking and enjoying each other's company.  Of course, this was better when I was young and people didn't turn to the Internet or put in movies or play video games when they couldn't go outdoors.  When I was young, winter was a time for baking more, playing board games, building forts on the couch, or simply drinking a hot cup of coffee or cocoa and talking.  But even if we don't connect with each other as much as we used to (one of the real shames of our modern society), I still love the intimate feel of being indoors on a cold winter day.

I also love the scenery.  The silhouettes of the trees against the grey sky, the glittering snow and ice under blue skies, the snow drifting softly to the ground, the snow lying softly (or heavily) on the branches of the pines.  We don't have any outdoor flowers for a while, but we do have beauty to behold nonetheless.

Winter also brings a mood.  Early in winter, we feel the shift as we go from the beautiful autumn days to the harsher winter days.  In mid-winter, we may feel even a bit of nervousness as we wonder what kinds of storms and snowfalls the season may bring.  Winter has its hold on the world, and we have to let go of our want for warmth and completely accept what the season brings.  But that's also the time when we feel the first sparks of the hope in our hearts that spring will come, that the darker and colder time will eventually run its course and move out of our lives once more, leaving us with more light and more warmth, allowing us to go outdoors once more and enjoy the new flowers and warmth and greenness of the world.

Of course, there are also hikes in the winter through the snow, either in boots or snowshoes or even on skis.  There are skiing and snowboarding, and many other winter sports that are quite enjoyable.  And they're different.  They offer us ways to enjoy the snow and cold rather than giving up on being active altogether, and they offer us chances to enjoy the scenery and to challenge ourselves in different ways.

I have to say that food is one of my favorite things of winter, too.  We tend to eat differently, with more heavy stews and soups with rolls and vegetables.  The colder temperatures keep us looking for sustenance, and while it's important not to overindulge and sabotage our health, it's also nice to enjoy what's offered in the winter.  In many places, some dishes are offered only in the winter--I remember a restaurant in Germany that served a wonderful Apfelstrudel, but it was available only during the cold months.

There is much to love about the winter.  The season offers us many new and different experiences, and if we spend our time simply hating winter and wishing that spring would come, we face a very real danger of not living our lives fully, not taking advantage of what each day has to offer.  No matter where we are or what we're doing, we can find positive aspects of our situation, and often it's up to us to make the best of what we have if we want to be happy and fulfilled.

16 November 2015

Small Pleasures, from Andy Rooney

From our Articles and Excerpts pages:

It's too bad all of us don't have some way to remind ourselves how good life is when life is going well.  We are more apt to think of it as merely average and normal.

When I was fifteen, I had an appendectomy.  There was some minor complication, and I was in the hospital for almost three weeks.  (It's always surprising how serious a minor operation seems when you're the one who has had it.)  But I recall then appreciating the colors and the action of everyday life when I got out of the hospital.  My perception of many things I had always taken for granted was razor sharp.  The grass looked greener, our house looked better and my mother's cooking tasted great.

The fact is, any time we or someone we love isn't dying, it should be considered a great time in life.

Just now, in the course of writing this, I was trying to remind myself of small pleasures I enjoy almost daily:

--My shower first thing in the morning is a wonderfully pleasant and exhilarating way to start the day.  I like the warmth, I like a good cake of soap, and I like the idea that I'm part of a civilization that has organized itself to get water to my house and have it warm and waiting for me when I get up.  It's difficult to remember to be amazed every day, but it is amazing.
--The morning newspaper and that first cup of coffee are two things I'm sure they have in heaven if there is one.  I always pick up my newspaper with a great sense of anticipation.  I'm a newspaper nut.  There are times when I don't find much in it that interests me, but that never changes my enthusiasm for getting at it again the following day.

--I love my work.  I love writing.  I even like the physical process of hitting the keys of the typewriter with my fingers, although I only use three of them.  I enjoy thinking of things to write, and there is always a vague sense of excitement about whether I can do it or not; this heightens my interest.  And to finish a piece of writing is a great satisfaction.  It's as good as getting a sliver out of your finger.

--By noon I'm getting hungry and feeling desk-bound.  I know a hundred good little restaurants, and it is a wonderfully civilized pleasure to find a friend and go to one of them for lunch.

--In the afternoon I'm not nearly so smart as I am in the shower eight hours earlier, but if I'm not pressed to do something for a deadline, I'm just as happy.  It's pleasant to browse through the mail and the debris on my desk, looking for a job easy enough for my brain to handle at that hour.  Perhaps I call one of my four kids working in Boston, Washington, New York, and Providence.

--By late afternoon I can't wait to get home--the same home I couldn't wait to leave that morning.  It's a pleasant place.  My wife is glad to see me, I'm glad to see her, and we sit down and have a drink while we watch the evening news on television.

--On Saturdays I have fresh orange juice, one of the great luxuries of my life.  As I sit there sipping it, I think how lucky I am to be able to make enough money to squeeze three oranges for a drink.  After a great time with coffee, toast, and the newspaper, I go down to my cellar filled with tools and good wood.  I've had some of the pieces of wood for twenty years.  I sit and consider for the hundredth time what I might make of a wide piece of walnut.  I feel it and enjoy it and decide to save it.

I am not sick or dying at all right now, and I'm determined to remind myself how good life is.


09 November 2015

Figuring Out Why

Things happen in life.  Sometimes they're obviously positive, and sometimes they seem to be quite negative.  Sometimes, of course, they are negative--but even in the very negative events, it's possible to find some sort of spark, some sort of message for us, some sort of learning that we're meant to do.

Recently, some negative things have happened to us, most notably a dramatic reduction in work hours.  Because I wasn't in a position in which I could actively look for other work, I had to accept the reduction and make do with it.  About a week after I found out about it, and opportunity came up for me to become involved in a program that seemed really fascinating.  It's a program that gives help to people who are hurting, and it will allow me to work one-on-one with people who really do need some sort of support in their lives.  The main reason I hadn't considered doing it before was that there's a fifty-hour training requirement--and guess what the reduction in my work hours allowed me to do?

Yes, we have to watch our money for a while.  No, we're not getting rich--or even comfortable, for that matter.  But I'm now able to do a type of work that I've always wanted to do, as we finished the training this past weekend.  The very negative occurrence of losing a lot of hours and making much less money is very real, but one of the outcomes of that negative situation has been very positive.  And there have been other positives--I've outlined my next novel, I've been able to do a lot of running (which keeps me in shape and helps me to clear my mind), and I've even cleaned and rearranged much of the house, something that my wife appreciates a lot.

Some things are very bad, and they help us to learn about our own limits and needs.  Some things are very bad, and they open up doors in other directions that we might not see if we don't keep our eyes open.  Within every occurrence are the seeds of positive and negative, but sometimes we get so caught up with the negative that we completely fail to see the positive.  That's a shame, and it is our own doing.  So let's stay focused on trying to find the silver lining in each dark grey cloud.  It is there.