Living Madly – My Love is Winter

My husband, Rob, and I collect landscape paintings. We have several hanging in our house. Many were created by local artists, but we also own some by national and even international painters. I’m not an art expert. I most often will decide to buy a painting based on the feeling I get when I look at it. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but if a landscape painting is “right,” something about it feels warm and familiar to me, even if the subject is a place I’ve never visited. To me, all of our paintings feel like home. 

A couple of years ago, after looking at some of our paintings, a friend asked, “Why are all of your landscapes of winter scenes?” Although it should have been obvious, I had never actually noticed that this was the case. But it’s true. Of the many landscape paintings we own, only two don’t depict snow, and both of those are scenes of late autumn — almost winter.

After thinking about it, I recognized that although I don’t like shoveling snow or losing the feeling in my toes more than anyone else, winter is the season that feels most comfortable to me. I’m not sure why it took me so long to notice this, but the evidence is everywhere: I use a snowflake icon to represent myself on my computer. My screen saver displays images of glaciers, snowy forests and frozen lakes. One of the top items on my bucket list is to go to Norway during the winter to see the northern lights. I love wearing boots and sweaters and wool socks. And more than anything, I hate hot weather. Whenever the temperature rises above 80 degrees I get irritable and start wishing it were November.

For me, winter has always brought an element of magic. There’s almost nothing like the moment when the first snow of the season begins to fall. It’s nearly impossible for me to avoid staring out the window when it comes. If I can, I go outside to experience the swirling flakes in person.

Although they are what many people dislike most about winter, the season’s cold and darkness are almost always welcome. As a writer, the winter is my most productive time. And there are few things I love more than sitting by the fireplace in my cozy living room, a big pot of something good simmering on the stove. I’ve even been known to sit in my unheated car during snowstorms so I can look at the shapes of individual snowflakes as they land on the windshield.

Rob and I have a few favorite trails we hike all winter long. The silence of the snowy woods helps me think through just about anything. And though you might have to look a bit harder to find it, seeing winter wildlife is worth the extra work. We’ve spotted swans, beavers, mink, geese, deer and a variety of songbirds, not to mention tons of interesting animal tracks. No insect repellent required.

Perhaps it’s because I was born in January, or maybe my appreciation of winter’s charms stems from some sort of genetic memory spawned by my ancestors from Quebec, but I seem to be in rare company, even among all the New Englanders and Canadians I know. I don’t mind, though. It just means I’m more likely to have those hiking trails to myself.

In art and literature, winter is traditionally seen as a symbol of death, despair or loneliness, but I don’t think of it that way. Winter is an opportunity to rest and recharge and think about all the things I need or want to do. It’s a time for planning the summer garden, family celebrations and projects large and small. The night sky in winter is a wonder to behold, and at no time of year does the air smell fresher or more alive.

It’s January, and although many people I know are pining for July or planning vacations at Caribbean resorts, I’m waiting for the next blizzard so I can strap on my snowshoes and go for a long walk in the snow. 

Contact Emilie at eprovost@mvmag.net

                                      Oil on canvas by Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau.

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