Autumn is in full swing and winter is just around the corner, and many of us are dreading the long cold months ahead, but does it really have to be this way?
I can truly say that I love all of the seasons, but honestly, fall and winter are probably my favorites. Not only are they stunningly beautiful, they have a very profound effect on my mind and my daily life. It isn’t hard to love autumn, though, with harvests, and changing leafs, acorns and pumpkins, but it is a franticly busy time for many people. Winter on the other hand is very black and white, literally. It is very bright at times and it is very dark, well, most of the time, but more than anything, it is cold.
I love winter because it is dark and quiet. When you walk outside in the winter, the earth just swaddles you up in the most primal sort of way. Winter is like a dream, it’s a time for me when I feel like I could simply step into another realm, one that we don’t have access to all the time during the summer. I recently wrote a post about what I call night foraging, which is literally foraging for food at night, but can also be taken further, foraging for some deeper meanings in our lives, foraging in our own minds. In the winter, it is night so often that I feel much more connected to the universe, gaining a better sense of my own beliefs and acting on them in a much more profound way. The lack of sensory input opens up different neural pathways, ones that do no rely as heavily on sight or sound, completely changing my cognitive landscape in a way that can only be described as ethereal. I have walked down a dark country road at night in the winter time and seen, just for a moment, seals popping up and disappearing again into the concrete. No, I was not on drugs, crack is whack kids, the lack of information being sent to my brain from my eyes, ears, and nose led it to simply improvise, turning the tables and sending information to my eyes instead of receiving it. It’s sort of like when you dive into deep water and stay under for awhile. It might be shocking at first, it might be cold, it may wake you up, but once you’re under the dark, weightlessness is calming in an otherworldly type of way. You begin to think about how there is a whole other world below the water’s surface that we hardly ever experience. Well, there is a whole world above us too, beyond the solid ground, that just every so often, we get to dive into headfirst, but it is a little less physical, a little less simple, than going underwater, but wintertime makes it much more accessible.
"Searching" - Madeline Island, WI
Winter is a time for rest and reflection. For many groups of indigenous peoples, especially those that lived further north, winter time was spent inside with family, laughing, singing, telling stories, sleeping, eating, playing games, and working on small projects. Up until the industrial revolution in fact, most people, women especially, spent winter resting in the home and catching up on crafts that needed to be made but there wasn’t much time for in the summer, fiber crafts in particular. Remember that until the last 150 years, the large majority of a family’s clothing was made at home, a very time consuming, but relaxing, job. A large part of me wishes that our society here in the United States still allowed for such time, instead of driving cars around in the ice and snow, stressing about the hubbub of commercialized holidays, and leaving the home to work as usual. If I can make a life for myself that allows for more of a winter hibernation, I think I would enjoy it even more than I already do, and wouldn’t we all? The choice to follow the traditional, the natural, ways of winter is ours, although it may take more forethought than going along with the societal norms.
I also love winter because it is warm. Breaking out the wool clothing and bundling up brings me so much joy- the cold makes me appreciate and feel the warmth that much more. I find that many people dislike winter because they don’t know how to stay warm. If this is you, then seriously, it’s time to invest in some wool socks, long underwear, pants, sweaters, and coats, and for god’s sake get some sensible boots! Sure, you may not look super fashionable- this is what I look like in the winter:
But you will be able to go outside and play in the snow like a kid, notice the beauty and stillness, and amaze yourself with the wonders of nature that you see when you consider winter ecology. Going outside in winter often helps you to acclimate your body to the weather, making you feel like a total badass when your friends are freezing their butts off and you are perfectly warm in a sweater at thirty above. Don’t believe me? Think about how warm 55 degrees F feels on the first spring day and how cold 55 feels on the first cold snap in autumn. It’s all about what you’re used to.
Okay, I’m ranting. I know, I promised you that you could enjoy every season, not just the winter time. I just wanted to focus on that one in particular more because that seems to be the least favorite among the general population by far, and I just love winter so much that I can’t stop talking about it! But I swear, I’m done talking about winter (mostly). The secret to enjoying every season is to have at least one hobby that you’re passionate about for each season, a hobby that is totally dependent on that season, that can only happen during that time. While I was living in Northern Wisconsin, I knew this guy who was a cross country ski guru. He lived, ate, breathed skiing, and if there wasn’t snow on the ground, all the could talk about was when there would be snow. I mean, this guy could have been an olympic skier he was so into it. Then he told me this story that always stuck with me. He said that when he moved to Wisconsin from some Southern clime that I can’t remember now, that he absolutely hated winter. He hated snow, he hated cold, he dreaded winter and everything that went with it and he suffered for like 5 months out of every the year (winter is long in Northern Wisconsin). Then one day, he realized how freaking sick he was of being miserable for almost half of the year and decided to do something about it. So he got into skiing even though he had never skied a day in his life. Now, he loves winter so much that he almost can’t stand summer!
Hiking in Transylvania Wilderness Area
Winter tracking is my skiing, you can only do it when there is snow on the ground and so I look forward to winter all year. You just have to figure out what you love to do outdoors in the winter. Whether it’s iceskating or hockey, dog sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, chaga collecting, snow flea watching, knitting, clothing the homeless, sauna-ing, or ice climbing, figure out what your winter thing is and get stoked about it! Then find out what you love to do during every other season, although most people already know what they love to do in the summer, but you may not.
Another one of my favorite winter activities is not farming. I know, it’s almost sacrilegious to say that I enjoy not growing plants, but after months cultivating and planting and weeding and harvesting and preserving, sometimes I just can’t wait for a break! I am always so busy canning in the fall that I am so exhausted by the time winter comes around that I am perfectly thrilled not to see another green bean or cucumber for a couple of months. Plus, winter is prime seed catalog season- the most wonderful time of the year!! I can’t tell you how much fun I have planning gardens down to every minute detail, calculating costs and yields, researching and tracking down rare heirloom seeds. Does it ever go to plan? Absolutely not! But it’s fun and I do it anyways!
Some hobbies are great and varied all year round. Gardening is a good example, because there is something different to do every month of the year. Another one that is near and dear to my heart is foraging. It seems like every week there is something new, different, and exciting to forage for. I’m getting super stoked about acorns one week, the hickory nuts the next, last month I was collecting buckets of chanterelles and the next month I’m on a sunchoke kick. Even if you just focus on one aspect of foraging, like fruits and berries or mushroom hunting, there is always something to look forward to. To learn more about it, check out my posts 10 Reasons You Should Forage for Food and 12 MORE Reasons You Should Forage For Food.
Primitive skills in general are a great hobby to get into because everything is so incredibly seasonal. While this can be a bit frustrating at times, this variation is also what makes it exciting. While I might be sad that it isn’t time to make milkweed cordage, it might be the perfect time to harvest yucca for cordage, and so it forces you to always broaden your skills and knowledge in that way.
Figure out what you’re into and go for it! It might take some experimenting but you will absolutely have some great experiences and learn some cool new skills along the way! Let me know in the comments below- what’s your favorite season and why?
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