15 March

Overdoing It. Why I Love Winters (Mostly)

by Jon Katz
Loving Winter

Lots of people are asking in various ways if I am overdoing it, helping to dig out of this stunning blizzard. I won’t lie to anybody, the answer is yes, I definitely overdid it this morning, so did Maria. I raked snow off of the roof, helped shovel out the porch, dug through heavy drifts to reach the bird feeder, dug out the mail box buried by the snow plows, dug out one of the completely buried hay feeders, dug out the snow that blew into the barn, dug out he cards and cleaned them off.

It was a matter of survival. Either you dig out or stop living, and digging out is a part of life here, it happens a lot less than it used to happen. I am not macho and have little high-octane testosterone, I have nothing much to prove and do not excel at men stuff. My doctor gave me good advice. Shovel until it stops feeling okay, and it never stopped feeling okay. I started to feel worn out, a slight tightness in the chest,  so I stopped after a couple of hours.

It is possible, of course, that I am just affirming my own mortality and yielding to the male ego, but I can’t just sit in the house while Maria is shoveling tons of snow and looking paler than me. She is tough and strong, but there is not much of her, she was wearing out.

And I can’t turn my life over to young men who do this for money all the time. As I told the cardiologist, I’d rather keel over in the snow, my choice. He nodded, your choice. Shovel the snow as much as you can.

Every time there is a big storm like this, I get a bunch of messages gloating (politely) from people in South America, Mexico, Florida, California, Costa Rica and New Mexico.

David Welch wrote: “I miss winter like I miss a rock in my shoe.” Someone wrote me from Panama saying contentedly that he was happy to have just one season. Warm and sunny.

I get that, I thought of being warm yesterday as Maria and I slogged out into the howling winds and sub-zero temperatures and whiteout snow again and again.

But the truth is, I love winter and would despair at being without it. If you can’t overdo it, move somewhere else.

For one thing, winter is beautiful, a season of black and white, of contrasts. A resting time for all of life, a time to reflect.

Winter forces us inward, into the dark and the quiet. It is a time of tea, wine,  wood stoves, talks with friends, early bedtimes, candles, reading good books, walks in the beautiful woods without bugs and ticks, gorgeous snow-capped hills and mountains.

It is a good writing season, few temptations to go outside early in the morning. A time to overdo.

Winter defines Spring, and Spring is magical here. It isn’t just another warm and sunny season. It is wondrous to watch the grass turn green, the animals begin to graze, the buds in the garden come up. A blizzard like this one will make Spring all the sweeter, each season here is so different and distinctive, we never stop appreciating the earth and it’s countless small miracles.

A blizzard is exciting. We get out the candles, fill the bathtub. We think of how cold and embattled the people who built the house must have been in a blizzard. Little warning them, it probably would have killed off their cows and sheep. We have days of warning, we are always ready.

When we go outside after a storm like this, we strategize and become a team, helping one another, watching out for one another. At one point, Maria took a look at me and decided it was enough. “Get in the house,” she said, taking my shovel away. I did. We had some tea, rested and headed out again. I know when she means it.

Amazing what we accomplished together this morning.

We’re okay and ready to get back to life.

The cars cleaned off and ready to go, the porch cleared off, some of the heavy snow raked off of the roof, paths dug to the pasture, and within the pasture, to the feeders so the animals could move around. The mailbox had been blown open by the wind, the flap was open, it was filled with snow and packed in by the snow plows. We got that dug out as well. I dug a hard path through the big drifts so we could get to the bird feeders (they need us now) and for the first time, I saw a pile of snow inside the door to the big old barn. It blew in under the door, the wind was so strong.

When I first went outside this morning, I groaned. The drifts were up to my head. All the shoveling we did yesterday was obliterated i the cold and snowy and windy night. We got the full brunt of the storm.

This will take days, I thought. I better call for help. But then, we did what we always do, we just go on with. Even this much snow can be handled if you focus on it and work together.

It felt good to do that honest work together, I am done for the day shoveling. Enough is enough, I don’t wish to overdo it any farther, I proved my point to myself and got the job done. I think of Spring with almost every shovel, in a week or so I will be sitting out on one of the wooden chairs, watching the animals, looking out to the Green Hills of Vermont, just down the road.

Winter gives me life and work and purpose. It is part of what makes living here special. Winter challenges my photography and informs my writing. I would never trade winter for one long warm and sunny season. I’d rather have a rock in my shoe.

And isn’t that what makes it great to be alive? Overdoing is a call to life.

I love winter and I can almost sniff Spring, the sweet season of color and light.

We all love our own things and in our own ways.

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