Comfort and Joy

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I’ve always been drawn to intensely cold days. Perhaps it is because there are so few of them where I live. A frigid day is a kind of novelty that allows me to use my fireplace and cuddle under a blanket while I write my blogs or read my books. My cup of Earl Grey tea seems to taste better when there is a chill in the air. I find myself appreciating the shelter that my home provides more than I usually do. Wintery days provide a kind of diversion from the warm humid season that seems to last for most of the year in my part of the world. Probability being what it is tells me to treasure and enjoy moments when the temperature drops into the low thirties. 

I suppose that if it snowed for weeks on end, leaving me continually isolated, I might begin to feel a bit like Jack Torrance in The Shining, but that never really happens. The colder days of January and February instead make me friskier and more alert. I revel in the way I feel. Those months tend to be boring and seem never ending unless they are improved by a nice winter freeze. It’s even better if a bit of snow accompanies the moment.

I suppose that my love of the cold may have come from a time just after my father died. It was November and the days were growing shorter with a hint of winter putting a chill on our house. My mother was unsure of how to light the pilot for the furnace so she bundled us up at night under quilts that my Grandma Minnie had made. She told us stories about how she and her siblings had stayed warm during the winter in her childhood home. There was no central heat there, only a single gas heater that warmed the central part of the home, but not the bedroom she shared with her sisters. They would huddle under a pile of blankets and hug each other to get even more warmth from their body heat. She’d smile as she remembered how close they were and how they took care of each other. 

We finally got the heater working when our next door neighbor came over one evening to help. He laid down on the floor and showed my mom how to safely light the flame that would start the system and deliver heat to the entire house. That was the very moment when I began to believe that our strange little fatherless family was going to be alright. In a kind of Pavlovian way I have always felt comforted by the arrival of winter and the first stirrings of warmth from the heating system. I associate it with kindness and good fortune. I makes me appreciate the most simple aspects of my life. Winterlike weather is kind of a dog whistle that brings happiness to me. 

On the other hand I know that I have a kind of psychological aversion to the beginning of summer because it traditionally arrives on Labor Day when my father died. It’s rather bizarre how we humans make connections with certain dates on the calendar or places or even music. Our brains automatically affect our feelings even when we don’t realize what is happening. It took me a long time to understand why I prefer the cold over the sunny days of summer. Once I realized the why of my preferences I learned to once again enjoy both ends of the seasonal spectrums. I no longer fear the summer the way I once did, but it is still my least favorite season because I really don’t like being hot and sweaty.

My daughters both lived in cold climates for a time. They have told me how fun it initially was to have snow and get all bundled up before going outside. Over time they grew weary of the short days that became dark by four in the afternoon. They said that the snow became an ugly gooey mess as the months wore on. When April came and it was still chilly outside they longed for the spring weather that came in the middle of March in the south. They were more than happy to put their heavy coats and snow shovels away when they came back to Texas. 

I suspect that folks from northern climes long for sunny beaches and blue skies while I wish for a lovely white carpet of snow on the ground. While I worry about hurricanes from June to November they spend the winter months wondering when a blizzard may come to ruin their plans. We travel to cabins in the mountain in January and they go on cruises to the Caribbean. 

Not everyone who lives around me likes the cold. I’m often in the minority when going into rapture over the few days each year that we get a small taste of what it would be like to have bonafide winters. They prefer the temperance of seventy degree weeks when the flowers still bloom and even the most delicate plants thrive without any extra attention. Not even the fun of wearing their boots or drinking hot cocoa will convince them to give a thumbs up for winter. I suppose it’s like many of the proverbial questions that divide us into different ways of thinking. 

It was already warming up a bit as January came to a close, but tradition tells me that February will give me one more shot at the kind of chilly days that I so love. Wintery days in Houston are like Christmas to me. They come and go quickly, but deliver so much comfort and joy while they are here.