Shy Stars in the Winter sky…

Freezing cold air numbs my fingers, and I finally donned some soft gloves today. I thought the bright sun beckoned me outdoors, but the cheery skies laughed at the shock I felt when winter’s winds buffeted me while I stood outside in just my sweatpants and sweatshirt. My cat braved the bright cold to watch the deer as they made their way down to the partially frozen creek, but my cat wears fur. Since fur isn’t “in” these days, I decided to wander back inside. I stood on the back deck long enough to feel my lungs and throat seared by the frigid air. I gave up far more quickly than my heat-loving cat.

Snow flying in the Kentucky air.

Winter’s cold has a way of ushering me indoors. I’m thrilled to find myself at the end of the day next to a roaring fire and yelling out wrong answers to Jeopardy, or binge watching a show. Which isn’t truly a binge, since my husband can sit for two episodes at most. Then we listen to vintage music or shove our noses in books. I’d like to think I pair a glass of wine with the wending way of words in my pile of novels, but the reality of wasted calories factors in. Chocolate and cream in my coffee matter more.

How do those of us who dwell within reach of winter’s embrace find happiness in the endless sullen clouds, the snows that fall and must be shoveled again, and where a run outdoors is almost considered dangerous? Look to the Swedes. They live in months of darkness, with cold seeping into their veins, and they’re happy. Swedes commit to the cold and practice a form of coziness, hygge. It’s the latest in loving winter, but they’re truly onto something.

When I lived in upstate New York the snows sometimes came up over my head, and we shoveled down our cereal just to be out in the glittering sunlight to build a fort. When my parents moved back there during my university years, I bought some skis and went skiing. My family decided to join me on these forays into powder and moguls, where all we worried about was shoving off of the ski lift without falling down. I went cross country skiing with a friend, and when we figured out that we had taken the wrong trail, or maybe it wasn’t a trail at all, we laughed so hard at our novice skiing efforts on the nonexistent trail.

The woods at our farm this past week.

We had to ford a swollen creek in those long skis. My friend and I finally abandoned our skis and hoofed it back to the chalet to hand in our rented equipment. My boyfriend (now husband) took the cross country skis out one dark night where the shy stars peeked out between the clouds as they passed. Looking up we marveled at the wonder of dark skies, bright new snow, and quiet, almost holy moments.

Winter is jolly, rushed, and full of celebrations in December, so the real test of our mettle comes in the long months that follow. My inclinations these days is to stay tucked up in a cocoon of soft blankets, with scalding hot coffee at hand, and burrow in deep as I sit by the fire. But winter has a magic that begs to be discovered by us. The Swedes make a point of going outdoors to collect items from nature such as rocks, feathers, sticks or moss to bring inside and use as decor. They also light up the darkness with bright white lights in windows and in the house.

If we took a cue from the people who enjoy winter and remain happy despite the cold and dark, we can hold onto ribbons of bliss.

Tonight I read about a challenge where a person commits to hiking at least one mile fifty-two times in one year. I have to ask my husband if he’d like to join my on a hike every week, and we’d have to start this week since we’re behind already, but what a unique way to get people out of their homes on dull winter days. Soon enough we’ll be posting about walks in the rain and hikes in the steamy hot days that refuse to release their heat. For now, though, this hiking challenge sounds like something the Swedes would try, and I’ll throw in searching for a beautiful pine cone.

Our bodies were made to move. After a day or night of work the last thing most of us want to do is head out for a walk. Plus the older you are, the easier it is to fall into the habit of hibernating. There are no kid’s basketball games to see, no swimming lessons to attend, and no book club due to covid. Listlessness is easy. Complacency looks alluring, but playing cribbage while drinking herbal tea or a wee dram of whiskey is better than relentless, mindless shows on tv.

I think we’ll feel better if we do commit to braving the cold and embracing it.

The real fireplace at the cabin.

When I lived in very cold Wisconsin, I watched the frost crawl up my bedroom wall in horror. The temperature hovered at -25 degrees. That cold welcomed us in our first year of Wisconsin living, but we adapted to the frozen months and accepted them.

My husband and I both took up running, since we were too poor to join a gym, and we’d run in almost any weather. I did take a nice four-miler in a blizzard, and my husband would run in every cold possible. Nothing daunted him, though -10 stared my in the face, and I backed down. The main point is changing our perspective and our position. Join in and skate outdoors, make snow angels, shovel a neighbor’s driveway. Find a leaf or feather to bring indoors to your winter collection.

The people I met when I lived in Wisconsin were friendly and hardy. One soul-chilling Saturday evening when the thermometer hovered at another night of -25, I asked my roommates what we were going to do since walking over a mile to the bars wasn’t going to happen. They looked at me as if I had sprung antlers out of the sides of my head! They were going to walk downtown fortified by some strong liquor and heavy coats; staying in would never be an option, so I dressed cute (no heels, because it was too cold for that at least) like Madonna, guzzled some scorching liquor that drew heat into my chest and head out for a long walk in the gloom of yet another dreary night with no starlight.

Just being out in that awful penetrating cold with my funny friends made me realize attitude is everything. We laughed our way downtown and made our way into our bar, since most students had a certain bar they hung out in for most of the night. We chucked our parkas at the door and sure enough the place was packed with all our friends. Nobody in Wisconsin is afraid of the cold, and they celebrate almost anything to bring light and laughter to a long season of frozen days.

I’m not advocating swilling down shots of booze as a way to lighten your mood. Those days are behind me, and I didn’t guzzle, even when my roomies did. I usually ordered a dry martini and nursed the drink for an hour or so, hoping some guy would buy the next one. Hey, I didn’t have much spending money!

The point is we can choose to like winter or hate every single day of this season, but what good is that? My friend laments the cold here, which isn’t honestly that cold, and she talks about moving to Fiji. I just discovered she wears a battery-operated coat that heats her coat up nicely, so in my eyes she is set. I could have used that heater in my coat when I’d leave the school library at midnight, but there’s something about bravery that lifts the spirits.

Snow flying in Kentucky.

Staring down the dark and cold take courage of a certain sort. If we balanced our weeks to include hikes on a trail or around our city, if we huddle under our softest blanket, if we sip hot tea and read the words of a book that delights us, then we’ll be happy. Make your home, your space, a place of warmth, even if it is from a space heater. Place a pile of magazines or books next to your sofa or bed and luxuriate in words.

I know this is crazy long, but this is one last tidbit I wanted to share with you. In Germany one day I stayed in my hotel room, because I wasn’t feeling so great. I placed a Do Not Disturb hanger on my doorknob, and the cleaners still came in. They cleaned around me in my bed, and they opened up a window even though the day was brisk. Germans like to open up the windows in their houses and apartments once a month, no matter what, to freshen up their homes. I understand that. Even winter air is fresh and clean with a scent no other season possesses. Open your window. Just a crack or so. Grow used to fresh air, and don’t be afraid of the cold. Enjoy it.

I hope you look up and memorize one constellation that isn’t the Big Dipper or Orion. Winter brings very dark nights just ripe for spotting planets and stars. I’ll be looking up. I hope you do, too.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time
Deanna Eppers

Embraced…

The biggest snowfall of the year was headed our way, and for days we have been anticipating this gift. Where I live two inches of snow is a problem, so the whole city went to the grocery stores and gas stations, because we were going to get hit with twelve inches of fluffy, white snow on top of last week’s surprise ten inch snow! I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, woke up to no snow, waited only to hear sleet hitting the windows for hours. No big snow today. Just two inches tonight landing in the dark on top of the sleet.

Snow fell softly a few days ago while I walked to the creek.

Disappointment happens to all of us. This lack of snow isn’t a big deal, though I feel sad for our meteorologist who is on twitter saying he is so sorry. Hey, it happens. I wanted to sit by the cozy fire, light some fragrant candles, called Winter, no less, and watch the snow pile up outside. While I remained cocooned inside. I wanted to have an adult snow day. I was going to blissfully read without a care, skipping the bills and emails piling up. I might have watched a movie too. Baked some pumpkin bread.

I felt rather sad that my plans had not played out right, and I took a shower, put on clothes, opened the front door, felt the sleet, and started paying bills. When I needed to call insurance, they were gone for the day due to the terrible weather. Only we didn’t have any, and they are based right here. Sigh. Disappointment finds us all. It’s how we choose to look at it that determines if we can change into finding happiness amid our personal grey sky days.

Starting down our path to the creek…

We can usually try to focus on the positive, even while we’re feeling out of sorts. A friend cancels and we can have time to talk on the phone (call a different friend though), watch something inspiring or funny, play online, paint, write and create. When we find out we didn’t get the job, we aren’t pregnant after all (and we wanted to be), when family moves away, or when a string of blah days just won’t end, we need to lose ourselves in something. Not alcohol. No drugs. Create something or marvel at a creation made by someone else. Ever go to an art museum and want to crawl into a painting? Degas’ ballerinas at the MMoA amaze me every single time.

Put on a happy face…

Someone once told me it’s where you lose time that means you’ve hit your element. Not as in multiple personalities, but where you find yourself doing something, looking up and realizing hours have passed and you didn’t notice it. Mine is playing piano, singing (though I do it alone or with the husband now), writing and walking. What’s yours? Cooking? Tinkering on an old car for fun? Crosswords? Painting or sketching? We all have abilities to create, and we can lose our disappointment in finding out what we do that is enthralling to us, and then going for it. Do your thing. You have at least two. I believe we all do.

From a night out after seeing a play last year, before the sky fell down.

This pandemic has us all disappointed, and if I shared mine with you, maybe it might help you realize I’m not always happy. Six of us were scheduled to spend twelve days in Scotland this spring, but it’s not looking good for us. But my friend was diagnosed with a terrible form of cancer at a bad stage. She told me she might have months to a year or two left. I’m sad that we can’t go to Scotland together this year. There might not be a next year, and I’m disappointed and frightened at perhaps losing my friend. Yet, I’ll still watch Scottish shows and read up on Scotland, so when I go, with my friend or without, I’ll still find it beautiful.

When I gaze at the River Dee or see the Highlands, I will think of her, if she isn’t by my side. I won’t have to explain that I’ve acquired a taste for scotch, just a wee finger or two, neat if you please, though I hope I still get that chance. We all have problems and issues that affect us, but creating something or gazing at a creation, whether it be a mountain or garden, takes us out of ourselves. It can make us happy. We want to grab at happiness and lose our disappointments. Once you find your “thing” you can while away the hours in making your world better, happier and more beautiful.

The waterfall just might freeze before it warms up. Notice the light snow?

We make this world happier by bringing a handful of happiness with us, amid life’s disappointments, and what’s more beautiful than seeing someone smile as you pass them. We can have snow days without any snow falling. We can turn any mundane day filled with endless tasks blissful by thinking about when we’ll make time to lose ourselves as soon as we can steal away. When we’re creating paths through the woods so others can enjoy the views we so enjoy, when we listen in wonder to a love song and time melts away and we’re sixteen again, or if we just sketch out our dream home we are creating pockets of happiness. We begin to be happier, and soon we are quite content. Happiness just might be habit-forming.

More flowers.

Happiness arrives amid disappointment. How would I ever have found my true love if I hadn’t been so sad with the guy who decided to ignore Valentine’s Day? When I saw the bouquet of flowers that evening I knew he was the guy for me, and I had suddenly found more than simply happiness, but the person who would be my best friend, my only lover, my confidant and my arm candy. I hope he blushes when he reads this. You deserve to have happiness wend its way into your heart. Try losing yourself in the moment. Not just fifteen seconds of quiet on a tv commercial, but that yoga class where you find your calm. Find your happiness. Make it. Create it. Dwell in it.

I’m wishing you a snow day this week. One day where you do exactly what you choose. Maybe you’ll really find some snow outside, too. And…

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next week,

Deanna