10 Reasons to Love Winter
In Defense of Old Man Winter
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, my client, Old Man Winter, has been accused of stealing people’s hope, warmth, and good cheer for too long. This travesty of justice ends today, as I make my frozen defense of the bleak January winds and the gothic February nights that have shaped our character since before the first kindling fire died an ember death in the late hours of a silent winter night.
My client has been defamed over centuries by once hearty but now soft and shivering New England expatriates who would rather be living in Palm Beach than in Freeport, Maine. The fair weather friends who impulsively proclaim a passionate fervor for my client amidst the boisterous red warmth of Christmas and the mistletoe merriment of the holiday season, replete with its caroling, wool scarves, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and evening city crowds on their way to A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker – how quickly they abandon my client when all this is over, when the promise of New Year’s has faded by weeks and the long toil of January has given way to the Ground-hogged bleakness of the month that shall not be named.
My client dressed up in the white lights of December needs no defense – for here he is beloved and warm, and yet to be scorned. No, I’ve come to defend my client for the very worst of his crimes – the darkest corners of his nature – revealed only to Minnesotans, upstate New Yorkers and New Englanders in that fierce carnival of bleakness that descends like a gray, exhaust-ashen snow bank in the middle of January and extends well into May. My client pleads not guilty on all charges, and is indignantly asking for millions of dollars in damages to his reputation from those who left Boston and Chicago for Atlanta and Dallas. Come back, and fall in love all over again, with a February high of 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, here are the 10 reasons you must find my client not guilty, and then join us on a two-week vacation in Iceland.
1. Snow Days
For those of us who work in academia, there are few things better than a good, old-fashioned snow day. Even better when the notification from the school comes the night before, and you can retire for the evening, and sleep in as late as you want in the peaceful knowledge that work is cancelled tomorrow. Or – make some popcorn, watch a movie, and stay warm as the snow falls and the sound of the plows clearing and scraping away the snow outside can be heard in the distance. Amidst the never-ending rush and stress of modern life, for just this evening and the following day, the city shuts down, and all becomes quiet.
2. Hot coffee on a cold winter morning
For my fellow coffee lovers and me, the morning is all about that first, sublime brew of dark, warm liquid happiness. But when the room is cold outside the blankets, and you can see your breath puffing in the air, and the floor is creaking underneath you in the pre-dawn darkness, and few others are stirring in the house at such an hour, that hot cup of Joe is even more beautiful and bewitching. It warms you and sustains you, and it’s that much more appreciated on a cold February morning.
3. The Super Bowl
It’s a national holiday that transcends politics and religion. What’s not to like about a 4-hour party with good friends, a great game, highly creative and entertaining commercials, a half-time show with an extremely talented performer, and hot, doughy pizza. And since I’m a New England Patriots fan, the Super Bowl tends to agree with me, and the rest of Boston. It’s always an affirming time for us, when we feel pride and satisfaction in our city – yes, we’ve made the right decision to live in this icebox after all – and we try to imagine what it must be like to live someplace else that doesn’t win so much. Hopefully, we’ll never have that problem here.
4. Groundhog Day
The holiday and the movie – aren’t they really the same thing, by now? I try to watch this movie each year, to mark this entirely underrated holiday. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet overtaken Halloween in terms of candy consumption and consumer spending. It’s amazing how easy it is to let Groundhog Day come and go, like any other day, without doing something to commemorate or honor this special day when a very small percentage of the national focus turns for a few seconds to a rodent-like prairie dog that really ought to be left alone by now. It’s a day when you should gather your loved ones near to you, and tell them how much more important they are to you than the groundhog. I think Phil Connors said it best: “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.” Amen, Phil Connors. You’ll always be more than just a weatherman, to me.
5. Video games
Batman is better in the winter. Uncharted is better in the winter. I appreciate my video games more in the winter, when it’s dark and bleak outside and there’s no lingering sense of guilt over the fact that you’re spending a perfectly beautiful day on the couch beating up bad guys in Gotham City. In July, there are too many distractions, such as lovely summer days on the beach, biking, boating, rock climbing, friends, travelling, jogging, basketball, and all those other annoying things that get in the way of video games.
6. Coming in from the cold and taking a hot shower
It’s easy to overlook the simple things you do everyday, as they can fade into the background obscurity of thoughtless habit, as your mind can happily take you away from the subtle pleasures of that sensate experience. But when it’s cold outside – really freezing and desolate and dry – and you come in from that vacuum of bone chilling apathy, and you find yourself moving in the direction of the shower, with the single-minded goal of simply becoming not cold again, it’s easier to be fully present in that experience, in your body and not in your mind, and to appreciate the hot water dripping and the steam in your face, and the pleasure of contrasts as the warm balance returns. Hot showers and coffee – what more do you need?
7. Winter Food
There are some foods that only come out in the winter. Hearty, proper meals that need to cook on the stove for hours and marinate, and waft around the house, such as: beef stew, porridge, sausages, Shepherd’s Pie, cabbage soup and mashed potatoes – these aren’t really light summer fare. I associate these proper foods with Scottish manors and Emily Bronte novels, and possibly dangerous hounds running across the moors on a winter afternoon, while the Lord of the Manor in tweed smokes a pipe, with a chess game going on in the parlor next door. Someone else is reading “Murder on the Orient Express” in the library. This is what beef stew means to me, with dumplings on top, and carrots that almost crumble in your mouth – notify the hounds that the lord of the manor is back, and he’s hungry and ready for a rousing match of backgammon before retiring for the evening.
People talk a good game about back-to-school shopping in August and September, but everybody knows that December is the granddaddy king of the shopping season. And it lasts well into January, since the hardcore shopping addicts are nowhere near ready to let go after the rush of adrenaline that is the holidays, and so we extend the Christmas shopping season high well into January, with post-holiday sales and returns, so that we can compassionately wean these shoppers off their crutch, gradually, kicking and screaming, until the malls return to normal in early February. Just in time for the mad rush of the Groundhog Day shoppers. I love shopping, and I enjoy it more in the winter, when everybody else is there beside me, as it makes the sport more competitive and intense, like bungee jumping or parasailing. I love racing people to the last discounted sweater at the Gap, or pushing people aside to get the last copy of “Mindful Peaceful Times” at Barnes and Noble. Summer shopping isn’t as much fun because it’s not as competitive. Where’s the sense of satisfaction when you don’t need to be strategic or fierce or buff in order to buy a book? America is all about freedom, and the rugged individual beating impossible odds to achieve material success. And what epitomizes this more than holiday shopping?
9. Long winter naps on the weekend
When you come home bruised and beaten from a long day at the mall, what’s better than a nice, long winter afternoon nap? I always feel like I’m getting away with something when I sleep in the middle of a Saturday afternoon – it feels dangerous and irresponsible, like I could get in trouble for it, but I never do.
And it’s fun when you wake up completely disheveled and disoriented, and you’re not sure what day it is, or what time it is, and then you realize that it’s not the middle of the night, and you have the entire evening to do whatever you want with, and you’re well-rested too. It’s like a bonus day or something, because you’ve introduced another mini-night into the weekend, so it feels like a three-day weekend, since you went to bed three times instead of just two. Who doesn’t love that? And the winter is friendlier towards these naps, since it’s already dark outside by 4 pm, God bless Daylight Savings Time.
10. Snow falling at night
It doesn’t make any sound, but you can hear it so clearly. It’s a quiet softness – an absence, rather than a declaration. Unlike the heavy rains of an August thunderstorm that pass in a few minutes of wild energy, the snow just whispers its way into your life, and it’s that much more disruptive in its quiet persistence. Rain is pleasing in its rhythms, but more mundane in its temperament. The snow implies cold, and stillness, in a way that no other weather phenomenon does. And this stillness only happens in the dead of winter.
And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I hope that you will consider all of these aforementioned points as you deliberate on the fate of my client. Old Man Winter is a good man – a misunderstood man indeed, sometimes gruff, and surly, and unpredictable – but he has a heart as warm as ice, and a smile as friendly as the Hound of the Baskervilles, and so as Phil Connors said in that movie about a small, rodent-like animal that really ought to be left alone by now, “I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
The Defense rests. Thank you.
Carl McCoy, copyright 2017
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