How do you get on the good side of winter? I just so happened to have started reading, “Exploring Nature in Winter: A Guide to Activities, Adventures and Projects for the Winter Naturalist,” by Alan M. Cvancara. A section of the opening chapter is titled, “Learning to Like Winter.” Perfect. A university professor and past resident of North Dakota, where it can be as cold as negative 60 degrees, Cvancara knows what he is talking about.
“The wintry environment will not always be entertaining to you,” writes Cvancara. “You must mentally meet it part way.” You get ready to “meet” winter by accepting the cold and dressing warmly. He suggests conducting an “awareness experiment” to notice how being cold and uncomfortable takes us out of the present moment, causing us to miss interesting things like rabbit footprints or the smell of earth in the morning, which he says might mean snowfall is on its way (wow, didn't know that.)
The whole book is about being curious and active in winter, even if you don’t do snow sports. Chapters cover forecasting the weather yourself, observing wildlife and plants, winter astronomy and outdoor photography. The take-away message: Get out into the winter! Because the season isn’t really about dates on a calendar or new episodes of Downton Abbey.
I have a few tips of my own to add:
1. Be outside every day. It helps that my family enjoys skiing, as well as sledding and skating. But even when there is no snow, and especially when it is very cold, we try to get outdoors every day. We get used to it, and then it never feels “too cold.”
2. Keep moving. It’s the best way to stay warm, after dressing right. If we aren’t doing a sport or sledding, then I try to get us walking, involved in a chore or playing an active game.
3. Learn from other People Who Love Winter. Check in with outdoor-loving families to find out about great gear, new winter toys, ideas for building a backyard tubing track, the fun you can have on your own temporary ice skating rink, the skinny on sledding hills, etc. etc. I always get the best ideas from our friends who are already out there.