One good thing about winter
I am not a fan of cold winters. As a teenager I dreamed of going to college in a warm, sunny locale. Even now, on particularly chilly days, I search for property listings in New Mexico, Arizona, southern Utah. But here I am in Missouri, where the sky is overcast and drizzling, and my front yard is covered in bleak five-day-old snow.
It’s easier, isn’t it, to bear unpleasantness if you can find little positives: When we lived in Pocatello, Idaho, the first snow of every season would have the city buzzing with the knowledge that our local skill hill would soon be open. I’ve never liked the cold, and the first snow usually makes me groan. But in Idaho, when I woke up to see that blanket of snow, I felt the same thrill everyone else did. Only in ski country does a fresh coating of powder make your double mocha taste better, your neighbors friendlier, and the world seem full of promise.
I’m still working to find positives in our Missouri winters. The ski hills here are, um, lacking. There’s rarely even enough snow to go cross country skiing or snowshoeing (and I still have to figure out where I can rent gear…) It all just seems cold and bleak and dark and unending.
But today, I remembered one thing that makes January a little brighter.
After nearly a month of letting the bird-feeder on my front porch go empty, I finally hauled the bag of sunflower seeds out and filled it up. Not more than five minutes later, at least 50 birds had flocked to my yard.
There were black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, dark-eyed juncos, brilliant cardinals. Five fat, furry squirrels scampered underneath, hoping to get in on the action. Common grackles dotted the lawn, their iridescent black feathers striking against the snow. A couple of bluejays flitted around the fringes. I even spotted a red-bellied woodpecker on one of our trees.
I could barely pull myself away from the window, I was so fascinated by all the activity. And I realized that the only reason I could see so many creatures so easily was because it was winter. The trees are bare, exposing the birds perched on the branches. Food is scarce, bringing the crowd to the feeder. And the muted background of January makes the birds stand out in colorful contrast.
A nice reminder, too, that sometimes the bleak moments are the ones that enable us to see most clearly. The slow, sleepy months give us time to notice what we otherwise miss. And when the cold prompts us to huddle a little closer for warmth, shelter, food, sometimes we’re able to appreciate the beauty in our fellow creatures a little more.