by Robert Maxwell
Where I live on Manitoulin Island, Canada, winters get pretty harsh. As I write this, the outside temperature is -23 degrees Celsius – the coldest day so far this year. I don't mind. I'm sitting on my couch, it's just after 5 AM, the wood stove is roaring, and I've got a fresh mug of coffee on the table beside me. Life is good. Still, even on Manitoulin and other places that see cold winters, folks tend to be divided in their opinions on the season. Some, myself included, have no problem with winter and even (gasp) enjoy it. Others, despite living through many hard winters, rail against Jack Frost until they're more blue in the face from yelling than cold. It used to be that the divide ran around 50/50. Nowadays I see a growing number of folks in the second category, complaining about something they can't change. I've never seen the point of this mindset. If you hate winter so much, move somewhere warmer. Either that, or stop complaining, and start concentrating on the positive side of the season. I'm often asked why our hard winters here don't bother me. In an era of dwindling personal contentment, I usually keep pretty quiet about my lack of complaints with winter, but I think it's time for that to change. Here are three reasons I enjoy winter.
If your view of seasonal beauty only includes green leaves and apple blossoms, you're missing out. Sure, spring and summer are exceptionally beautiful, but so is winter, in its own way. Granted, if you live in a city, you might have to look a little harder for this beauty, but it's still there. Every flake of snow and crystal of frost is uniquely formed by the elements. Instead of cursing winter, take some time to look – really look – at it. You might be surprised just how much beauty you see. Where I live in the country, spotting winter beauty couldn't be easier. Every time I walk down my forest-lined driveway, I notice a new detail. Thick snow blankets enrobing trees, rabbit and squirrel prints crossing the frozen ground, frost artwork glistening on the windows, and the kind of massive icicles my childhood self would have broken off and used as a sword.
I Appreciate Summer More
Winter is certainly beautiful, but at this latitude, it's also long. Even those of us who love the season start longing for warmth and greenery after 4 solid months of snow and ice. That's why when it comes, it's all the sweeter. This principle applies to many things. You wouldn't appreciate a good meal nearly as much if you've never known hunger. Physical fitness doesn't seem as valuable if you've never struggled with a lack of it. Rest and sleep aren't appreciated by folks who haven't worked hard. In the same way, the warmth and beauty of summer are welcome and appreciated after the long, dark depths of winter. I'm far less likely to start complaining about hot weather in July if I remember that just a few months earlier, it was 60 degrees colder.
It's a Test
Some of us are crazy enough to embrace and enjoy life's toughest challenges. Living through decades of hard winters is one. Here in the country, we can't just wait for people to clear our driveways and deliver furnace oil to keep us warm. Both tasks rest squarely and solely on our shoulders, and that's just how I like it. I choose to heat my home with firewood, because I enjoy the physical and mental challenge of cutting, splitting, and stacking enough fuel during the warm months to keep my family and I alive when the air's cold enough to hurt our faces after just a few seconds outside. Call me crazy, but I'd miss this work if I started heating with oil or natural gas. I also love hopping on my dad's old beast of a tractor with its huge attached snowblower, and restoring the possibility of leaving home once in a while – at least until the next serious snowfall. I've chosen to live in a situation and place where these things are necessary for survival. If I don't succeed, we'll be in serious trouble very quickly, and I like that. The icy grip of winter, with all its challenges, makes me feel alive.