Winter’s cold hand enables us to appreciate spring’s warm touch

south carolina snow

With the calendar year winding down, the approach of winter’s cold harsh hand is evident across the northern hemisphere.

Already the grass has turned brown, the leaves are nearly all dead and fallen from the trees and the mornings temperatures have suddenly slipped into the low 40s, or well below in some parts of the country.

In South Carolina, the earliest snow of the season on record occurred last weekend. It was little more than a dusting for the most part, but when an area can go 3-5 years without snow, seeing flurries on Nov. 1 is certainly an occasion for notice.

As someone who has the constitution of a reptile and thrives in the sun and heat, this is not a welcome change. The days of sunning myself on a log in the river are at an end for the year, I’m afraid.

Unfortunately, my employer frowns on hibernation, so I will plod through the coming months.

Cities, too, take on a different tone with the onset of winter, as metal, marble and glass get colder and even more impersonal with the change in climate. I recall excursions to Boston, Montreal and Quebec City in late fall, and the dark, gloomy atmosphere exhibited by each as winter neared.

The bleakness of the end of the year in the city is captured magnificently in Theodore Dreiser’s classic novel Sister Carrie, set in late 19th century Chicago:

“Once the bright days of summer pass by, a city takes on that somber garb of grey, wrapt in which it goes about its labours during the long winter. Its endless buildings look grey, its sky and its streets assume a somber hue; the scattered, leafless trees and wind-blown dust and paper but add to the general solemnity of colour. There seems to be something in the chill breezes which scurry through the long, narrow thoroughfares productive of rueful thoughts. Not poets alone, nor artists, nor that superior order of mind which arrogates to itself all refinement, feel this, but dogs and all men. These feel as much as the poet, though they have not the same power of expression. The sparrow upon the wire, the cat in the doorway, the dray horse tugging his heavy load, feel the long, keen breaths of winter. It strikes to the heart of all life, animate and inanimate. If it were not for the artificial fires of merriment, the rush of profit-making trade, and pleasuring-selling amusements; if the various merchants failed to make the customary display within and without their establishments; if our streets were not strung with signs of gorgeous hues and thronged with hurrying purchasers, we would quickly discover how firmly the chill hand of winter lays upon the heart; how dispiriting are the days during which the sun withholds a portion of our allowance of light and warmth. We are more dependent upon these things than is often thought. We are insects produced by heat, and pass without it.”

The benefit of winter’s long, cold breath is that it allows us to cherish all that much more the beauty of spring and warmth of summer. After all, one can’t truly appreciate the light without knowing the dark.


10 thoughts on “Winter’s cold hand enables us to appreciate spring’s warm touch

  1. I do ‘t mind winter when Mother Nature forces us to rest and hibernate. School closure is one thing when we can go out and frolic on the snow. My main concern are the homeless.

    • Yes, I’ve always thought that if I had to be without a home, it would be much better to do so in Miami than, say, Minneapolis. I can’t imagine how one makes it through a long cold winter without shelter.

  2. I love your last sentence – applies to so many things. While I prefer the spring and summer, there is nothing like a bright and sunny wintry day, especially after fresh snowfall. Walking out in super-fresh air really blows those old cobwebs away!

    • When I lived up north, there was no better day in the winter than one when it was about 30 degrees, no wind and the sun was shining. We’d play pond hockey all day and after you got going it was wonderful: the physical exertion kept you warm, the scenery was beautiful and the fellowship made for great memories.

      Unfortunately, many a morning I’d throw my skates in my truck and head to the pond only to find the wind gusting and the temperature hovering around 10 degrees (Fahrenheit). But, again, those days made spring that much more enjoyable.

  3. As a Southerner I appreciate the break from the heat that winter brings but as someone well into middle age, I am starting to appreciate the comfort of being warm more than I used to. Still, I do enjoy the occasional cold winter day if it is windless and sunny outside and a rare, uneventful snowfall is still appreciated more by those of us who rarely see them than those who have to live the better part of winter with snow on the ground.

    • I’m like you – as I get older, I find myself less and less tolerant of the cold. I do enjoy a winter day with no wind and the sun, though. It can be quite pretty.

      One thing I will say about winter, as someone who enjoys history, it’s much easier to see through the woods and locate old ramshackle structures in the winter, once all the greenery has died away.

      Of course, nothing beats the excitement of seeing my kids’ faces when its snowed. And nothing beats the excitement on my face knowing it will be gone in a day or two, at the latest.

  4. One of the reasons I fled to Belize is to escape winters in North Texas, which are relatively mild. Cool weather I love, and get energized by it. Cold weather (below 45 or 50 F in my book) is too cold for my thin blood. And btw, I just don’t see how people live in places where you have to shovel snow out of the driveway or your doorways to get out of the home.

    • I once lived in cold areas where I had, on occasion, to chip an inch of ice off my windshield in order to be able to see to drive. It could take 20 minutes or longer some mornings.

      Now it’s aggravating if I have to get out a credit card to push away the frost. I guess you do what you have to do, but I’m with you: cool weather is fine; cold weather is a pain in the rump.

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