Now is the winter

jam

To be fair, this has been a ridiculously easy winter so far. It’s just about the middle of February and we (in upstate New York) only had our first real snowfall a couple of days ago (and just a few inches really). By this time last year (and most other years), I would have already shoveled 400 feet of snow and had at least one harrowing drive home and would be spending most of my time pretty much never removing the Patagonia weightiest-weight hat from my head.

We really got off easy this winter, and I am not complaining (I am, in fact, doing the opposite of complaining every single day), except now we have come to a shocking cold snap, and it’s going to last for a few days. There are actual cold weather advisories for the area, since by Valentine’s Day it should be down to minus 200 or whatever with the wind chill. At times like this, I always turn to one of my favorite cold weather classics: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter:

There were no more lessons. There was nothing in the world but cold and dark and work and coarse brown bread and winds blowing. The storm was always there, outside the walls, waiting sometimes, then pouncing, shaking the house, roaring, snarling, and screaming in rage.

This was not my favorite book of the series as a child, but as an adult reading and rereading it to my children I found it riveting, and also strangely calming. Pretty much the entire book is set in the winter of 1880-1881 in the Dakota Territory, with temperatures always hovering around 60 below zero and blizzards every couple of days and the Ingalls family surviving on nothing but coarse brown bread made from wheat the girls had to grind pretty much constantly in a coffee grinder, while Pa had to tend to their cows and horses, and keep the fire going with twisted bundles of hay.

Which seems a lot harder than my plan for this weekend, which is to bake delicious cakes and cookies in order to keep the oven on all the time and to read and watch movies. We’ll get through this.

Anyway, here are a few things I have been enjoying this winter:

  1. Steel cut oats. I recently described this as kind of like discovering David Bowie when I was a teenager. It is next-level breakfast food. I have been making up a big pot every few days and then heating up a bit every day. You can put all sorts of things in steel cut oatmeal, or nothing at all. It’s always delicious.
  2. Royal fig jam. I am quite a fan of jam, but this is my favorite by far. Why had I never had fig jam until a couple weeks ago? What was wrong with me?
  3. Moisturizer. My favorite kind is from Indian Meadow Herbals and it’s called “Love Your Face Cream,” which is really what you want in a moisturizer.
  4. Reading. People often talk about summer as a time when they catch up on reading, which makes no sense to me at all. Winter is the time I always do the most reading, and I most often read in bed (with or without my weightiest-weight hat), but lately, during lunch, I’ve been reading in an out-of-the-way corner in my office building (an old brownstone) that looks and feels like a nineteenth-century library. It’s delightful.
  5. Noticing the light. One of the things I actually like about the winter is simply observing the days getting longer and longer  (and, as my children will tell you, to constantly point out the fact that, for example, just last week it was quite dark at 5:30, but now it’s so much lighter!). Every night that I step outside and notice the light that hasn’t left the sky just yet I feel the thrill of spring just around the corner. It’s coming, people. Just hang on.
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