Last year when I moved from Arkansas to Pennsylvania, friends were concerned about how I’d fare. I predicted that the hardest part might be “learning to live with real winter again.”
We had four snows in December, I think, and most of them didn’t incapacitate traffic at all, and the one that did, well, I didn’t have to drive anywhere the day that it did. We’ve had a few dustings in January, some melted away by afternoon. On several days, the temperature’s gone above 60. On Facebook and Instagram I see some of you frolicking in the snow with your kids, your friends, your pets. I see the beauty of new snow over a landscape, or softening a prickly pine branch. And something in me is pouting.
Winter is winter, of course, wherever we live. And it is winter here. The deciduous trees are bare. Gardens lie fallow. Many days are gray and sunless from dawn to dusk. It’s cold often, windy sometimes. Getting around in snow was the thing I was worried about. So why am I wishing for it? Why do I want to test my ability to drive over the river and through the ‘hood in it?
I think it’s three things. One, the child in me remembers snowy winters, and the magical way a good snowfall cleanses and softens the landscape. Two, the adult in me wants to rise to the challenge, to show herself she can plow through temporary obstacles and get to those who need her, those she needs. And three, it’s simply the cognitive itch of unmet assumptions: This is not the winter I was expecting.
Winter is, of course, more than weather. Like any season, it has its metaphors, its states of mind, its menus. Winter is a time of dormancy, of hibernation, of long dark days, of slowing down, of waiting, of shoveling out, of planning and hoping. Of soups and stews and tea and cocoa and oranges.
This week, America’s celebrity groundhog will pop out of his burrow and make his prediction: Either we have six more weeks of winter, or spring is right around the corner. Assuming that corner is at least a month down the road, we’re going to spend the next five Fridays in a book club, reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Winter can be a time of disappointments, of trains (and planes) grounded, of firewood running out and provisions running low. Of parents deciding how much to tell the children. Of families drawing close around the hearth. Of creative gift-giving. Of the simple joys of reading together.
Each week, we’ll discuss six or seven chapters, about 50 pages. If you have children at home, we hope you’ll read along with them.
- Feb. 3 — “Make Hay While the Sun Shines” through “Indian Warning”
- Feb. 10 — “Settled in Town” through “We’ll Weather the Blast”
- Feb. 17 — “One Bright Day” through “Where There’s a Will”
- Feb. 24 — “Antelope!” through “Breathing Spell”
- March 3 — “For Daily Bread” through “Christmas in May”
We’ll have some discussion questions to get us started, and some surprises. Join us any time. We’ll put the kettle on for tea.