With last week's Groundhog Day giving the signal for an early Spring, many rejoiced that the end of Winter may soon be in sight. As one who prefers the local charms of the warmer months, including sunshine days on the back porch and early morning runs without the fear of ice patches, I must count myself among them. However, I must also point to the number of pleasures one may find during the Winter.
With landscaping and yard activities unavailable to occupy our time, we have the chance to enjoy forgotten amusements. We are free to spend long days playing board games and reading books, all the while watching the snow blowing outside the window. Turn off the shuffle, turn on the record player, and rediscover the pleasure of playing an entire album. Take the time to sit and truly listen to the music and remember it as more than just the background soundtrack to our lives. When on your own, I suggest donning headphones, reading liner notes, and sitting cross legged on the floor, if you can manage. If you have company, then grab your loved ones and dance. For those with the inclination, take the guitar from the closet and the harmonica from the shelf and make music of your own. Worry not if you are out of tune, as the blowing wind will mask your errors from the neighbors. If your creative skills rest in other areas, bring out the crayons and paper. Build a sculpture out of the contents of the recycling bin. Try your hand at writing. Recognize the hidden treasures in your own home.
One should not mistake Winter as a time for indoor activities alone, however. My favorite time to experience the dunes and beaches of Southwestern Michigan is when they are frozen and snow covered. From Warren Dunes to Grand Mere State Parks, hiking trails reveal an entirely new landscape, one where absent leaves and growth allow views from the hilltops of distances no other time of year would grant. The treasures hidden throughout those grounds the rest of the year stand open to the explorer. The grand surface waters of Lake Michigan rest frozen in ice, giving the appearance of a snapshot in time. The shorelines of the Great Lakes are wondrous at any time of year, but the colder months hold a special place in my heart.
Further from the shore, the outdoor options continue. The small inland lakes provide ice fisherman endless locations to angle. Local parks such as Love Creek and Russ Forest offer locations for snow shoeing and cross country skiing. Those with a penchant for speed will find skiing of a different sort on the slopes of Swiss Valley.
With chafed hands, cars to uncover, and driveways to shovel, it can be easy to focus solely on negatives of Winter and cheer for it's end. We must remember the pleasures it offers and the opportunities it provides. Instead of lamenting how difficult it is to take the dog for a walk, head to the backyard and frolic with your pet in the snow. Find the beauty in the cold. Take the signal from the universe to slow down, turn inward, and reflect. As writer Julia Cameron once wrote, “Winter is Spring for the soul.”