Winter is a time for introspection, or so say the ‘olde bookes’ I grew up reading. These books were mostly written in Europe, though, where winter means cold, short days and long, dark nights, so it makes sense. Summer is the time for action, when the world conspires to make you energetic and affords you more time to do—to grow crops, craft materials, travel, and shore up resources for the winter. Winter is when you rest and use, rather than produce, those resources. It is when people still their bodies, and therefore can flex their minds. When one shifts focus from production to reflection and appreciation. If people are made of bodies and souls, summer is for the work of the body, and winter is for the work of the soul.
Some of this seems deeply ingrained in my psyche. (I’ve recently found out, via one of those “spit in a tube” DNA analysis systems, it may also be printed on my cells—I’m entirely European—lots of different strains, but entirely European, which will no doubt take another post to process.) I feel like things should slow in the winter, like I’m entitled to long evenings with cocoa and candles and reading and staying indoors. My problem, if you can call it that (and I tend not to), is I live in Southern California. There are no deep freezes, no storms that prevent travel, no freezing temperatures that keep me indoors or actually slow me down in any way. I could go and have gone all year round, without taking what feels like a real winter break.
This year, though, I feel like we got it right. We didn’t travel. A number of times people came to us, for dinner and evening holiday parties, for New Year’s Eve festivities, but we stayed home and let them come. That meant we focused more than some years on our little, happy home. We cleaned, purged, and polished up a good bit to be ready to welcome people, and when they came, we played host. I felt holed up. It was wonderful. I know I’ve been beating the Wind in the Willows drum lately, but I am reminded of the “Dolce Domum” chapter, where Mole finds his burrow in the snow after living several months on the river, and feels like he has reconnected with a part of himself. It happens to be Christmas when he does, and so the usual field mice come (without knowing he’d been gone), and they pull together a warm, inviting feast and celebration. There I go being Moley again. That scene was magic, and that was kind of my winter break.
It wasn’t a reflective, studious break, which sometimes people advocate in the winter. I didn’t read ten books or push myself to develop any skill. I played and communed and socialized and filled my tank with all those warm, fuzzy, cocoa-drinking, be-slippered feelings the Danish call ‘hygge.’ (I love this word. Not only does it encapsulate the notion of cozy, warm camaraderie we seem to lack in So Cal, it also looks and sounds like ‘hug.’) I was reluctant to leave the cocoon to face this winter quarter, but when I did I came back from break more refreshed than usual, more purposeful, even, than I normally do. Apparently winter is more a state of mind than a temperature range. Wishing you all productive changes and peaceful transitions.