I am not a huge fan of winter; the blustery-ness is awful, the limited hours of sunshine are depressing, my lips are constantly chapped and when it comes down to it, I just really, really don’t like being cold. I feel like a migratory bird, caught here by circumstance, ancient instincts telling me to go North, to return to brighter, warmer places.
I should probably listen to those instincts and just book a holiday.
That is not to say that winter is without anything to recommend it, and it is true Sydney winters are usually mild compared to places like Melbourne or Canberra. Or the South Pole.
Keeping this in mind, I have been trying to focus on the small, tiny moments which can brighten even the coldest, bleakest days. The humble, very basic pleasure of warming hands on a mug of strong tea as you shuffle closer to the fire. Or the feel of sunshine on closed eyelids as you pause to bask in early morning rays, skin cold to the touch and breath fogging, but the warmth of a bowl of porridge in your belly warming you from the inside out.
Our house doesn’t have any air-con. We have wooden floorboards, weatherboard-clad walls, big windows that let in the light, but also the cold. I recently overheard my sister describing the way her skin always feels traumatised after winter nights standing in front of the fireplace. I know exactly what she means; even when the room is luxuriously warm (as it gets when we stock up the fire and close the door into the drafty hallway), there is something slightly hypnotic about a fire on a winter night that makes us stand perhaps a little too close, crowding and jostling each other good-naturedly out of the way to feel the intense heat radiating onto the backs of our legs.
We recently discovered (or perhaps remembered?) the perfect union that is a tray of pears and parsnips, roasted in the oven with copious quantities of good-quality olive oil until they are crispy and caramelised. There is no better dinner on a cold winter’s night than a tray of roast vegetables, and I never tire of integrating fruit into otherwise savoury meals. I would die a happy woman if the only things I ate for the rest of my life were roasted pears and parsnips.
And what better way is there to spend a cold, dark evening than curled up with a good book? Only head, hands, and a copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History sticking out of a nest of crocheted blankets and cushions, drowsy and warm after hours of reading in the big wicker chair by the fire is my idea of an evening well spent.
I suppose at the end of the day, the ability to be happy comes down to questions of temperament and tenacity. I have always been able to find pleasure in small things, long before the practice became ‘trendy’ and commercialised with fancy colouring-in books and untranslatable Swedish verbs. And I think a core component of success in any aspect of your life is the ability to persevere even when it is cold and dark outside (both figuratively and literally). Applying both these qualities to otherwise dreary situations can provide a degree of calm, a certainty that even if things are miserable right now, they will get better. In short, summer is already on its way.
And in the meantime? I’ll be damned if I don’t sit out the winter in style xx