Mark Smith is a contributing fictional blogger from the equally fictional Harrington, VT.
I confess. I love winter in New England. I do. As much as I love every other season in New England, except maybe fall. I have to say fall is my favorite – wouldn’t I be weird to say otherwise? But I love winter, too. Ever since I left the Big Apple, anyway.
I get it, though. Holidays are done, and I know you’re all dreading the long months of cold – snow, gray skies. Maybe you’re dreaming of some southern, palm tree studded beachside villa, where you can soak up the sun and watch the parade of tanned bods at the beach, a cold brew in hand.
Some of you might be lucky enough to have a place down south to escape to for the winter, or like me, you can eke out a vacation week or two (not that I’d do that – give me skis any day). And I know even that is beyond the reach of some of you – and you’re planted in New England for the duration.
You want to be warm. You want sunshine. Well, I’m sorry that I can’t give you that, but I can help you find ways to cope and distract you. Be forewarned though, I can’t help in some cases to invite you to embrace the season – in a good warm-ish way, of course.
So without further ado, here are my top ten everyday things for you to do to whisk away those winter blues.
1. Install a bird feeder
Come back – I’m serious. Birds are fun to watch. The world is still alive. Many of the avians stick around for the winter, scoffing at their (literal) snowbird counterparts that head south at the first hint of cold weather. So pick up a bird feeder and seed at your local hardware or general store and install it where you can watch from inside stretched out on the couch, eating potato chips out of the bag (Emma hates when I do that), cleaning up after meals, or while writing from your working space (like me).
You know, there’s something about the cardinal’s bright red against the snow that can really pick you up, like how we can’t stop taking pics of red barns in their winter white finery. Well, I guess we go kinda nuts over them in every other season, too.
Back to the birds. The sunny yellow tiny goldfinch, or the pudgy little black and white chickadee, will have you smiling in no time. Their songs will brighten your day, too – you can learn how to identify them by sound at the Audubon Society’s A Beginner’s Guide to Common Bird Sounds and What They Mean. You’ll be impressing your family and friends in no time with your nonchalant identification of bird calls.
You might even find yourself picking up a birding book so that you can zero in on some of those lesser known birds. The Audubon Society’s Field Guide is a great resource – yes, I confess, I have a copy. Visit your local bookstore to pick one up.
2. Bake cookies
Who can resist the aroma of baking cookies? Winter is the best time for this – baking warms the heart, and not just from the oven being on. It’s a great date day with your significant other, and of course it’s always been the go to for moms, dads and grandparents to keep the kids entertained. Pair it with some hot chocolate (with a bit of peppermint schnapps for the adult version) and you may find yourself asking if this could possibly be as good as 80 degree weather.
Almost, I know.
3. Curl up with a good book
Is winter made for this, or what? If you don’t have a fireplace, light up a candle. Grab your favorite throw, and plunk yourself into your favorite comfy chair. If the snow is falling, all the better. It will make you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm cocoon. I happend to know that Louise Penny is one of Joyce Anne’s favorite authors for a winter read – her books, set in the Eastern Townships of Quebec Province, seem to take place mostly in winter – maybe because, you know, that’s further north than Vermont. Winter takes up the better part of the year.
4. Take a walk in a winter wonderland
Ok, I get it, I’m sending you out in the cold. But you have to admit, after a good snow, the world is unimaginatively beautiful. There’s a stillness and peace and the air is crisp and clean. So bundle up, and before you pick up the shovel, take a meditative walk and admire the incomparable art of Mother Nature. She can be at her finest in winter.
5. Do a game night
Get away from the video games and TV for a bit and dust off the old board games in the cupboard.
This is really great for introverts, like Emma, who hate idle chit chat. Get together with family or friends and you’ll find yourself having a blast – I mean it. My favorites are the word games (surprise) and Dungeon and Dragon types, but it’s always worth trying something new.
Paired with beer, wine and snacks, you might just be happy to be trapped inside in the dark evenings.
6. Take a long weekend at a winter resort
Ok, this one is about really embracing the season. The grand old resorts and cozy inns in New England are the perfect way to snuggle up in luxurious bedding with someone special, treat yourself to some great morning breakfasts, and then head out to the snow. This is where you do sleigh rides or dog sledding, snowshoeing or Nordic skiing, ice skating, and even ice fishing. All in the great wonderland of snow. Cocktails and dinner will warm you right up afterward. You’ll fall asleep under a layer of quilts or puffy duvet and think that nothing could compare to this in the old sunny, hot south.
7. Stock up on jigsaw puzzles
Here’s where you can embrace the season or escape by picking winter scenes or tropical paradises. Whatever your choice, make sure it’s a place you’d love to be, or something that brings you joy. Pick a well-lit spot where you can keep it going through the winter, and wander over in free moments to fit pieces in.
And take my word for it – it’s not worth hiding a piece so you can have the pleasure of putting it in when the puzzle’s done. I tried that – I got that look from Emma that makes me feel guilty.
8. Have dinner out in a tropical simulation
One way to get back the good graces if you did hide that puzzle piece, is dinner out at a restaurant that has a summer vibe. Generally those will be the ones with covered or no windows and bright lighting. Make it your go to place for eating out in winter. It’s amazing what a little escape like this can do for the soul.
9. Visit an art museum or catch a local performance
Art will take you far away from wherever you are. Take your time and study pieces that grab your eye. You’ll soon find yourself miles away from the cold outside. If art isn’t your thing, substitute a science, historical or other favorite to escape to. Consider a season pass. All museums have changing exhibits and special events. It’s always there when you need a reprieve.
Remember the performing arts, too. Watch for local music, dance and theatrical performances and be transported.
10. Dream of Summer
Go online to find all the great garden nurseries and order their catalogs – White Flower Farm, Bluestone Nursery, and Proven Winners are favorites for Emma, and I go for the veggies and fruit seed catalogs. I’m still trying to win the Guiness record for largest pumpkin – not even close yet.
Dave’s Garden’s “Garden Watchdog” is a great way to find nurseries. Catalogs generally start arriving mid- to late-January and there is nothing like poring through all the new hybrids and old favorites and deciding what you might like to plant come spring. If you order live plants, they’ll ship at the right planting time for your zone.
Just browsing these catalogs can put a spring (ha ha) in your step and even have you planning a new garden.
As a corollary to this, if you’re not into gardening, just Google some great images of summer scenes, or order travel brochures to warm sunny places. You don’t have to actually to, just pretend.
Remember that spring will come
I’ll admit, by March I’m watching for any tiny hint of spring, realizing that there’s still a month of solid winter. But I know, and so do you, that before long the snowdrops and crocuses will be popping up, with daffodils hard on their heels. The robins will be pulling worms from the warming earth, and all will be right with the world.