Welcoming winter

Comfort in the chill

Frost on roofs, rolling fogs, overused Jon Snow references — winter is coming. Though winter is often cast aside as the blank precursor to spring and a tired setting for Hallmark movies, under its cold rains and slow mornings hides a time of clarity, community and coziness.

Following the example of hibernating animals or metamorphosing plants, properly preparing for winter can serve as a chance for growth. In accepting the slower tempo of winter, we can uncover its beauty. Little can surpass the melancholy romanticism of wind-reddened noses, warm mugs heating cold fingers or nature’s retreat into adaptation’s dimness.

As waking up before the sun becomes routine, the dark transforms a mundane routine into more of a sensory deprivation experience. The dreaded murk of chilly grey turns into a companion of sorts.

The unadorned state of winter nature is not a barren desert but a refocusing. Winter brings a particular type of temporary eccentricity to the world.

The unadorned state of winter nature is not a barren desert but a refocusing. Winter brings a particular type of temporary eccentricity to the world. Against the backdrop of sparkling frost and naked trees, the subtleties of the birds and critters, the shimmer of light in cold air and all the small things typically ignored shine. Without winter’s hiatus from normality, I would not be able to appreciate the abundance of spring as much.

In winter, humanity’s inborn hunger for companionship realizes itself. Whether it be late nights around a fire spent exchanging stories and warm drinks or, hours under the covers with a movie or the hazy glow of a holiday party, winter also provides a reason to gather. The sun is reborn in solstice, sandwiched between celebrations of culture and community, reunions of family, the new year and the chaos of late winter carnivals. Personally, my family celebrates the lunar new year. Over Zoom hotpot and WeChat well wishes, the miles of distance between us seem surmountable. 

There is something special about a group of people gathering together, sharing heat and cheer, which appeals to a deeper, natural part of the human experience. Over hot meals, the dramatic decorations, travels and long-distance phone calls, the weight of existence humanity has crafted lightens. 

To ignore the cuisine of winter would be foolish. Comfort runs deep in all winter dishes, present in the spices of hot pot, beef stew or goulash or the sweetness of various cookies, hot chocolates or other desserts. Furthermore, produce like citrus, apples, beetroots and more not only serve as the basis for many dishes but are also excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients to help power through the season. Moments cooking with family or making a late-night meal in pajamas, form some of my fondest memories.

Winter also hosts a medley of sports for the more active. Apart from the quadrennial rollercoaster that is the Winter Olympics, activities include snowsports, hiking, skating or even just taking a walk around a park. As the warmth of movement, excitement and good company fights the cold under heavy coats, we can fully appreciate the sheer scale and singularity of the season.

Every cloudy breath, warm bowl of soup and morning spent in darkness makes me aware of what it means to be alive. Solitude and solidarity come together to form the most sublime of seasons. As the trademark heat of California returns, I reminisce on and look forward to sleepy evenings cocooned under layers.