Outside, a cold weather front is trying really hard to snow. Or, what passes for snow in the DC area. Which is actually sleet. Inside, the aroma of a leftover roast being reheated into sandwiches wafts up from the kitchen. The house is full of us, but quiet. Though it’s still astronomically autumn for another week, it sure feels like winter has arrived.
My family and I came from a place where winters are considerably tougher. My teenage kids especially miss the deep snows of Wisconsin. I am glad for the longer falls here and colorful early springs, which make the winter season shorter and easier. Even so, I can find the darkness a challenge, since my office job takes me inside during the few bright hours of December weekdays. I have to make a conscious effort to see the sun.
Winter used to get me down. But years ago, an apple farmer pointed out something to me that people closer to the land understand. Every living thing that experiences winter goes through an adjustment, a change of gear. Trees pull into their roots. Animals grow new coats, hibernate or fly south. Our own bodies go through metabolic realignment as we become accustomed to the cold. We crave different foods for a reason. Before we had artificial light, allowing us to stay awake at all hours, people slowed down in winter, too. Winter asks us to change our routine. But how many of us do? How many of us expect to keep the same pace all year round, or worse — speed up as we move through the holidays?
Once I accepted the premise that winter is about down-shifting, I began to enjoy it more. Roll with it instead of fighting it. I go to bed early. I switch sports. I bike less and do yoga more. I tighten my social calendar. Family sees more of me and friends see less. I get back to reading my book list. Mostly, I take the pressure off to be productive every single minute. I allow more time for sitting still. And in that sitting still, I reflect. On the past year, a snowy view, a warm house…
A few weeks ago, I finally finished a couch-to-5K program that I had been working on, guided by podcasts in my phone. My progress was so slow. Life kept getting in the way. It took me three tries before I could complete the nine-week regimen, which requires three interval training sessions per week with incremental increases in the running time. And then one day, I ran the full 30 minutes. Sometimes progress is like that. It can be hard to see your next breakthrough when the improvements are imperceptibly gradual.
Winter can be like that, too. From the moment it officially arrives, on the solstice, the season is already on its way out. The days start growing longer again. Just a few minutes per week, but that’s all it takes. Soon it will be time for a new growth spurt and a new year.
So in the meantime, below the surface, winter is strengthening the roots of your life. My advice is try not to rush it. Enjoy. Do get out in the daylight if you can. Bundle up. Reconnect with loved ones. Then have a cup of tea and a nap. And let winter do its thing.