Like a sudden thaw in the middle of winter, grace happens at unexpected moments. It stops us short, catches the breath, disarms. If we manipulate it, try to control it, somehow earn it, that would not be grace. Yet not everyone has tasted of that amazing grace, and not everyone believes in it. – Philip Yancey
On my walk today, I felt the warmth of the sun on my back like the reassuring hand of an old friend.
“…the men recognized one another only by the pattern of stripes on the caps. The men were bundled up so tightly against the fierce cold that only their eyes were visible.” Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
It’s wintertime and I plan to spend time outdoors. Despite the prevalence of winter survival videos that make life in the wilderness look so easy, the elements can be very unpredictable and conditions can become life-threatening very quickly. I have experienced some challenging times in snow country, including my snowmobile falling through the ice. Fortunately, I was able to jump away from the ice hole, but after that, I had a much greater respect for winter safety and safety in general. I travel with a buddy whenever possible and make sure I set up a communication and locator alert system with a designated family member or friend before setting out. Here’s what I do to keep warm and safe in the cold:
1. Wear a woolen hat and neck warmer. (I have knit myself several, and always bring a couple of extra ones in case it snows heavily and they get wet.)
2. Use a waterproof shell for my woolen mittens to keep my hands warm and dry (see below). I pack spare pairs of mitten liners.
3. Dress in layers to regulate my warmth and so I can remove or replace ones if needed. I pack backup clothes as well, including a bag that I always keep in the trunk of the car. If it is really cold, I wrap a wide wool scarf around my waist and over my kidneys to keep my core warm.
4. I know my gear: I have tested my sleeping bag to be sure of its comfort rating. I pack an extra one in case the temperature drops lower than anticipated. (I use a converted quilt as my backup sleeping bag to my mummy sleeping bag.) I make sure to keep them both dry, especially since they are down-filled.
5. Take a pocket thermometer to be aware of the temperature dropping, particularly in the late afternoon.
6. Take a travel carbon monoxide detector in case I have to spend time in my car or a cabin with a gas heater or open flame.
7. Keep my phone charged and keep it close to my body so it doesn’t freeze up. Pack a backup battery.
8. A flashlight, headlamp, and high visibility reflective vest are musts.
9. Bring along extra food such as power bars and especially water – I keep a water bottle tucked in an inside pocket.
10. Car equipment: chains or cables, shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction. Snow equipment: waterproof boots with snow leg gaiters, snowshoes, boot calipers, rope, and a small axe, ice pick and knife. I mark my ice pick handle with one inch markings to measure the thickness of the ice.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill
My father loved sports and games. He was a fierce competitor and exuberant victor. I revered him and from a very young age wanted to get in on the action. I knew that I would never beat him at the chosen sport or game, but it was thrilling just to be in his realm while I played opposite him. He didn’t believe in throwing a game or giving handicaps – if I were to win, it would have to be a completely unambiguous victory.
As the years went on, I accepted defeat – most of the time it was utter defeat, complete annihilation, actually. But in my teens I figured out a way to play against him that became enjoyable. Rather than concentrate on the final outcome, always defeat for me, I played by point spreads. To my surprise, I actually got better at the sports and games and wanted to play more often. I became a warrior and found enjoyment in the challenge! I never did beat him at any sport or game but I always had a good time.
After reviewing my 2021 New Year’s Resolutions, I realized that I had completed only three of the thirty listed. Hardly a victory. But I had a good time trying and I am actually further ahead than this time last year. I now have another list for 2022 – do I really think that I will complete it? No. But I will enjoy the challenge!
Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming And after the dream lives with the aftermath Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,
So I live now, for what I saw departs And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness Still drops from it into my inner heart.
From A Dream of Solstice by Seamus Heaney
This has been a year of stark contrasts for me: moments of acute pain, suffering, and sorrow but also moments of happiness, joy, and exuberance. I could not say that the lightest moments outweigh, compensate, or obliterate the darkest ones, but, because one cannot change the past, I choose to carry only the feelings and memories of the lightest moments forward.
“Before you can have a roaring fire, you’ve got to gather a good supply of wood.” Pierre-Auguste Renoir
I love this time of year! At the first snowfall, I start preparing to stay warm and cozy inside my house but also to make the most of the splendorous winter wonderland that awaits me outdoors. Below is my list of what I love to do during my favorite season:
1. Get out all my wool toques, mittens, and scarves, the down jacket, and the snow boots with the big snow cuffs.
2. Put my flannel sheets, down comforter, and wool mattress topper on my bed,
3. Walk through the woods and try to spot a hare or Snowy owl. Listen for the bird calls of a Blue Jay, Cardinal or Bohemian waxwing.
4. At sunset, as the temperature is dropping the fastest and the wind has fallen, listen to the rare crinkling sound of the ice crystals forming on a pond or gentle stream.
5. Before dinner, light a fire in the hearth. The sounds of the damper cranking open, match striking, and wood crackling – magical. The woodsmoke settles briefly in my hair and transports me to seasons past.
6. Change the recipes from the cool meals of summer to the warm, comfort meals of winter; stews, soups, and hot meat pies.
7. Round up my Christmas baking supplies: cookie cutters, plum pudding molds, mince tart tins, and best of all, my mother and grandmothers’ special recipes and ingredients.
8. Listen to the muffled sounds of the city when the snow falls, delight in watching the snowflakes dance as they descend from on high and feel them touch my face, make a snow angel, and jump off a snowbank.
9. Get my skates sharpened, check my snowshoe strings, and find the wax for my cross-country skiis.
10. Cozy up in front of the fire after dinner with a warm blanket, hot chocolate or apple cider, and significant other… or a romantic novel.
In addition, check out the beautiful YouTube channel featuring many winter videos from Jonna Jinton in Sweden.