Finding Joy in Winter

There was something else, some current of joy that ran among the members of the family, unseen but lively as electricity.

Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn

I’ve always been told that January is a dark month. Not only literally due to the overall lack of sunlight but emotionally, all of us pushing through the deep, discouraging cold of Canadian winters to the promise of warmth and new hope in the Spring.

Now, I’ll admit, there have indeed been some hard winters in my life. Those depressingly cold and lonely months in the depths of the pandemic (yes, still not over, but there is finally light at the end of that particular tunnel), the winter I was trying to decide whether or not to leave my cushy office job for the hopefully-better-for-my-mental-health unknown, the winter I spent far away from my family and friends in Holland (OK, that one was not all bad).

Even in the easier winters, there have been dark times. It’s hard not to feel a bit depressed when the sun goes down before you’ve even broken free from your work day. Though I may be a self-professed night owl, I still need a good dose of vitamin D on the daily to keep myself sane. As one who finds inspiration staying up far later than is advisable for today’s get-up-and-go lifestyle, mornings are made even harder without the brilliant sun coaxing even the most tired of creatures (me) out of bed. I’ve never been a fan of waking up to more darkness. Is anyone?

However, even with all that said, I’ve got to say…This January (already half over!) has hardly been dark at all, despite the lack of daylight hours.

Don’t believe me? Read on for some things I’m finding myself grateful for this January – and maybe you’ll find something to be grateful for too.

1 – All the Cozy Moments

I should preface this with a disclaimer that I’ve always enjoyed colder weather. For reasons I cannot explain, I have always overheated way too easily. -30 degrees Celsius outside? I’ll walk for 5 minutes and be sweating so bad it takes everything in me not to remove my coat (I’ve been told frostbite doesn’t differentiate between chronic overheaters and normal folks). Slightly above 20 degrees Celsius? If you’re looking for me I’ll be lying spread eagle on the floor in the basement with two fans pointed directly at me whirring at full speed. I’m definitely more comfortable on the cooler side of things rather than the warm. A true Canadian one might say.

However, this inability to stand the heat doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting as cozy as possible. In fact, curling up with a (thin) blanket, a mug of hot chocolate and a good book is still one of my favourite ways to pass the time. Much easier to do when the base temperature of the house is just a wee bit chilly.

Our home may be a bit more heated now that we have young children in the mix but you know what beats snuggling up with a blanket in a deliciously chilly house? Cuddling your kids while you watch Christmas Chronicles (or “Santa” as my daughter calls it – Kurt Russell is apparently for her what Tim Allen was for me) for the millionth time, replacing the blanket with their warm little bodies and reveling in the fact that they love you so much there is no such thing as too close. Cozy indeed.

Does it get much cosier than a sushi date night? (Photo: Louis Savoie aka my wonderful husband)

2 – Seeing the Season Anew

I have many favourite childhood memories as I was blessed with a happy one. My siblings and I have two wonderful parents who were always doing their best to make our early years exciting, educational and at least a little bit magical. One of the most vivid memories I have is going tobogganing in the winter when Dad would pull us up the massive hill down the street in our sleds, exerting all this effort just so we could go hurtling down it at Mach speed almost instantly begging to be pulled back up again. I’m sure there were days when he was tired and sore and would have preferred the above-mentioned scenario of blanket, book and hot chocolate (well, more likely Earl Grey tea) but I never remember him refusing our desperate requests to go sledding one more time.

It’s been years since I’ve felt the exhilaration of careening down a snow hill faster than you thought possible – downhill skiing has confusingly never interested me – but this winter Aria (our eldest who is about to turn 3) began sledding in earnest and she is hooked. While I’ve been taking it easy so far this winter, I can’t wait to follow in my father’s footsteps and pull my own little one up the hill just to slide down it accompanied by her joyous cries, even if only to pull her up it once more again and again until the sun sets and the sky grows dark. Seeing this season through her playful eyes reminds me of its beauty and all the wondrous activities we can only do in Winter. What’s not to love?

I don’t include photos of my kids’ faces here for privacy reasons…but here is Aria enjoying the Christmas parade in our town, and loving every minute of it! (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

3 – Time to Slow Down

I’m not sure what the season is like in your part of the world, but here in our corner of Ontario winter storms are the norm. As long as the power remains on (more of an issue if it doesn’t now with kids than it was before), I really don’t mind all the snow and ice. Our little family is extremely privileged to have a roof above our heads and plenty of delicious food to fill our bellies. When the winter storms blow, it’s a reminder for us to pause, remember all the blessings in our life, and to take the time to soak them all up instead of jumping into the car on the way to our next plan or activity. I relish in the days when I can look out the window and call it a snow day – time for us to relax, reconnect and reminisce. Even if relaxing looks a little different with two kids. Who doesn’t need the occasional reminder that life doesn’t have to be lived at breakneck speed? Sometimes, all we need is to slow down and breathe. If it takes being snowed in to force us to do this – so be it.

Once upon a time I used to do paint nights…I need to learn to slow down properly again. Painting takes time! (Photo: Erin of the Hills)

I hope these reflections on the joys of winter have inspired you to focus, even for a moment, on what you are most grateful for. Knowing full well that I have an unfair advantage in that we have two adorable kids to prompt us constantly towards gratitude, I hope you, dear reader, can use this post as an excuse to take a moment and write down what you are grateful for, even in these the deepest depths of winter.

Despite the lack of daylight, I bet you can find a currant of joy…even a small one. And that might be just enough to reignite your spark and drive the darkness away.

And, above all, remember that even in winter life is beautiful.

xo Erin

What are you grateful for this winter? Bring all that glorious light into this dark January in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Finding Joy in Winter

  1. I’m with you on the effects that the winter months can have on our moods. There are people who say it is nonsense, but they are wrong. Nevertheless, I’m glad your January has been pleasing and productive. Like you, my parents also did so much to enrich my younger years, especially around Christmas time. I also concur that it’s good to have a prolonged period of quiet, reflection (and perhaps even room to breathe and be more creative). We are eyeing such a period after the first quarter of 2023 when our current travel plans come to an end. Oh and yes, sushi is always a good idea!

  2. I’m glad to hear you agree, Leighton! And that your upbringing was a positive one. It really has such an incredible influence on how the rest of our lives play out. I wish you both a lovely prolonged period of quiet and reflection when your current travel plans end. May it be entirely rejuvenating!

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