Evanston RoundTable, Feb. 8, 2018
How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
Aside from the cold, there is ice, slush, shoveling, chopping, slipping, falling, flu, cabin fever, gray skies, dry air, static electricity…. Well, you get the idea.
I refer, of course, to winter, that unloved annual visitor who like some crazy Uncle Wilbur shows up uninvited at your doorstep every December, messes with your life and your mind, and doesn’t leave for months.
Who needs it?
And yet, here we are, in the midst of another winter. Since we’re stuck with the darn thing, we better make the best of it.
Herewith are two sets of reasons for tolerating our cold and icy annual visitor.
The first are what I call the negative pluses, excuse the oxymoron, of the season.
The great newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to say Chicago winters, especially “the Hawk,” that ferocious blast of freezing air that sweeps across the prairie and blows into the city through the skyscrapers and makes your eyes water and your tears freeze to your skin, is “character-building.”
To which I say, like Falstaff on the subject of “honour,” who needs character?
Still, there is something about confronting the bitter cold, especially that first electric rush when you step outside and despite four layers of clothing your heart flips like a pancake and your breath congeals into icy shards on your lips, which might be considered thrilling and even a little death-defying.
Winter also divides those two great seasons, spring and fall, and imbues them with meaning. Consider San Diego. Average year-round temperature: 64°; number of sunny days: 300-plus. Nice, sure, but after awhile oh so boring, to the point where the weather is like outdoor wallpaper: it ceases to be of interest.
The reason spring and fall here are so wonderful is because, like life itself, the seasons are temporary. So we treasure them all the more.
Winter has its plus pluses too.
There are great winter activities like sledding and cross-country skiing; ice cold water from the tap; the best sleeping of the year, snuggled under all those comfy blankets; and the best seasonal beverages, including hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and hot toddies.
And there are some important dates like Dec. 25 and Martin Luther King’s Birthday and some fun and goofy ones like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, and Groundhog Day.
5 p.m. sunsets are always a good excuse to leave work early, spend more time with friends and family, and curl up to watch great movies or series on TV. And there are mornings when we wake up to the beauty of snow-tufted trees, their branches reaching up to the sterling blue skies.
Best of all are the first warm days of late winter, when snow and ice start to melt for good, and everyone seems to pour out into the streets to renew neighborly friendships, resume jogging and biking, and start contemplating the renewal of life that spring foretells.