Survivor: Winter Edition

The forecast calls for temperatures as low as -30° F tonight with the windchill. Sunday we’re supposed to get belted with a snowstorm that could bring up to a foot or so, all falling while the mercury hangs in the single digits. And the extended prediction suggests a month that doesn’t get above freezing.

It’s January 16, and right now the only difference between me and the sap frozen deep within the countryside’s sugar maples is that the sap will turn into something sweet later this winter. I’ll be pure bitterness until spring is well and truly here.

I wish I could pull up stakes and move somewhere that’s moderately warm year-round. But that’s the trap Vermont’s caught me in. Even though I hate the snow and ice and rain – sometimes all within the same hour – winter here is part and parcel of what makes me who I am. Therefore, I remain.

To be honest, I’m exaggerating a bit. Yeah, winter sucks as far I’m concerned, but I’ve gotten better at coping with it. I’m not so much bitter these days as I am impatient, and I don’t wish I could move somewhere else. Most of the time.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a few things that help me through the winter months. Little things that make me warmer on the inside when my exterior is frozen and brittle.

I started taking vitamin D this year. It’s hard to quantify what it’s done for me, but I feel a bit lighter than I normally do this time of year, and I think this extra dose of sunlight in vitamin form helps. It’s an easy enough thing to do, and I figured it was worth a shot. I’ll stick with it.

Sometimes suffering is alleviated by escaping into fiction and seeing others who have it way worse than you do. That’s my approach with an annual viewing of  Pontypool every winter. In February, if I can hold out that long, since it takes place on Valentine’s Day. Set in the depths of a cold, Canadian winter, Pontypool is a claustrophobic and unique take on the zombie sub-genre that’s also a brilliant exploration of language and how words work. And Stephen McHattie – wonderfully playing DJ Grant Mazzy – offers a lovely little soliloquy about winter and what it does to a person. And when the movie’s over, my winter’s not so bad.

For whatever reasons, winter has also become the time that I give George Orwell’s Animal Farm an annual read. I still have the copy I got from a Scholastic book order in eighth grade, and every time I read it, I pick up stuff I missed the first 3,000 times I read it. Animal Farm is my favorite book, and curling up on the couch with it on a chilly Saturday is a lovely experience.

Dog snuggles. Winter wouldn’t be half as bearable without them. If you’re having a tough time with the season, find a dog and cuddle up for a while. Simple as that.

Finally, one of my favorite recent additions to my winter survival tool kit is making a visit to Gardeners Supply Company in Williston and walking through the plants. Soaking up that vibrantly living green is intense, and walking around for an hour or so gives my batteries a nice charge, making me feel like spring isn’t so far away.

Failing all of this, there’s always one last option for getting through the worst of winter.

Just chill.

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