Monday, January 13, 2020

Keeping Winter

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." 

 - Andrew Wyeth

Despite the fact that winter has been with us nearing a month now (January 21), in my neck of the woods it has yet to arrive. (The pictures in this post are from January 12, 2019). It feels more like early spring, and on Sunday with temperatures in the high 60's I could almost believe it was going to pass us by altogether. But according to the experts, after this week things should be cooling down a bit, and winter, hopefully, will begin behaving more like itself. This news makes me happy, as winter is my second favorite season! I'm not put off at all by the colder weather and dropping temperatures. I can always put on enough clothes and wrap up in enough blankets to be warm. And I am also admittedly blessed to be a home keeper, so when the cold days come, unless I choose to I don't have to get out in them.

With the predicted forecast in mind, I've been thinking about winter. Recently I read that back in the 18th century there was an old English expression of "keeping" a season, which referred to the traditional ways that people in the country restored their bodies and nurtured their souls by honoring in their daily routines, the rhythms of the natural world. Sowing, reaping, rest. In those days when the deep snows of winter came, there were no plows to come and dig people out, or trucks to salt the narrow roads. In the winter, in the country you "kept" yourself and your family at home.

In today's world the very idea of "keeping" any season, much less winter, is unheard of. For the most part, businesses remain open and employees are expected to brave the less than ideal conditions and report for duty. Both my husband and my daughter work retail jobs, and it is a rare thing for them to not have to show up for work because of the weather. It's made for a few nail biting moments for me as I anxiously awaited news that they had arrived to work and back home safely. But even those of us who are blessed with the luxury of staying at home don't really "keep the season", at least not in the sense that such a statement evokes for me. In this day and age, technology keeps us joined at the hip, rarely missing a beat. As long as we don't lose power, we march forward, undaunted.

But for me winter especially is an invitation to rest, or at the very least, to slow, and on the rare occasion that we are all able to stay home together as a family, I do my best to insure that those days are exactly that. An unexpected and welcomed reprieve. Sleep in. Stay in your pajamas all day.  Cuddle up under a blanket and dive into a good book. Play board games. Make hot chocolate, and with as little effort as possible, put a pot of hearty soup or stew either on the burner, or even better, the crock pot! Typically when they are calling for a possible storm of any significance, we have a few days warning and time to prepare. In those cases I plan our meals accordingly and make sure I already have everything I need on hand to make up something warm and filling. For me, this is "keeping winter".

In her book Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes;

"If you can't even remember the last time the very thought of snow brought a twinge of pleasure, take yourself to the children's section of the library (preferably without a child so that you can dawdle).  Ask the nice lady behind the desk to point you in the direction of the winter picture books. Take a few or as many as you can carry. Sit in a little chair and slowly peruse the pages as if you're discovering winter for the first time as an adult."

So the next time there's a winter storm in your forecast, why not plan ahead, maybe borrowing from a few of the ideas and resources I'm suggesting and linking below, truly "keep winter", at least for one day!
First, if you know at least a few days in advance, plan ahead.  Look through this selection of soups that can cook away all day in the crock pot. There's sure to be one you and your family will love.  Maybe add a simple salad and crusty loaf of garlic cheese bread, and you're good to go! And to keep lunch simple, kid's typically love grilled cheese sandwiches, and if you just happen to have a mitten or snowflake shaped cookie cutter around, you could press a cute pattern into one side of the bread for and added touch!  No kids?  Check out these recipes for those of you with a more "mature" taste!

For these games, it's simple, all you need is a deck of cards, all the instructions are here.  Snow days are also perfect for classic board games like Monopoly, Life and Scrabble!

FUN (Not just for kids, but for the kid in all of us!)
- Build a snowman.
- Have a snowball fight.
- Make snow angels.
- Go sledding.
- Make paper snowflakes.
- Make ice lanterns. (right)
- Make suet ornaments for the birds.
- Make snow ice cream!
- Build a blanket fort and fill it with comfy layers of pillows and more blankets!
- Have a read-a-thon.

And in the event you yourself have never truly enjoyed the pleasures of winter, here are a few of those picture books that Sarah mentioned. I would encourage you to not only read them, but to dive deep into the beautiful illustrations and learn to see winter with new eyes.

- Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares For Winter
- Over and Under The Snow
- The Mitten
- The Hat
- Owl Moon
- The Snowy Day
- Snowballs

I hope that you have been inspired and that several days in the coming season will find you "keeping winter".  To me it's such a lovely season, and I'd love to help and encourage everyone to find its beauty and come to truly appreciate it!

To close I want to share one of my favorite children's poems which I think is fitting for this post.

Picture Books In Winter 

 Summer fading, winter comes—
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are,
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the pictyure story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Until then,

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