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Winter chill has a purpose


Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. - Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale.

Winter woman Sometimes it's just too cold to go for a walk by yourself.

Sometimes facing the dried-up Autumn’s end leaves and icy grass is a task requiring the best of mates. To share a joke with, to egg on, to keep apace with – another breathing human alongside you to bear witness to the barbaric temperatures and resist being stared down by them.

In summer I happily surrender to a broad blue sky, breathe in endless supplies of warm air, and soak up the sun that falls on my bared shoulders.

I feel free to dawdle to enjoy a pretty scene, stop to watch something of the slightest interest, casually sip a cold drink or bite an ‘icy pole’ (also known as an ‘ice block’ in my home state of NSW).

These pleasures are for summer. That sticky, effortlessly sexy season that is my favourite – more so since I moved to Melbourne, where a hot summer day has become a special treat bordering, in my mind, on a near-sacred experience.

But there are pleasures in winter too, and much as I hate the cold I can't hate the season entirely. It comes pre-packaged with its own treats. Huddling together with friends knowing you're close to freezing your proverbials off but still being out there anyway. Eating hot meat pies at the football while wearing two pairs of socks, your team's scarf and maybe a goofy woollen beanie.

That's when you are reminded most of the warmth of friends – of a good joke, a good conversation, a shared memory that sparks something warm inside you. That’s when getting in the spirit of whatever you're doing becomes a matter of survival – a group warmed by mutual enthusiasm to ignore how damned freezing it is. You decide you must love what you're doing or you wouldn't be there, sacrificing your comfort to the elements.

The hot drinks, the comforting winter fare of steaming casseroles, rich pasta dishes, hearty soups, spicy curries. Winter makes you crave warmth with every fibre of your being. It reminds your soul what it most needs. Yes, I find it harder to leave the house. Yes, I hate washing all those layers of clothes then attempting to dry them in my living room.

And yes, my electricity bills go up. But I look forward to savouring long hot showers; I resume a cosy love affair with my favourite flannelette pyjamas; I sit closer to my loved ones when we meet for coffee to discuss our lives. Warmth is all about closeness.

Perhaps the chill of winter gives the sun the due reverence it’s owed – a chance for its power to be known intimately through its absence, or even more in the moments when it breaks through and brushes the air with warmth. And maybe the self-sufficiency of sealing your heat in with boots, thermals and jackets makes you feel more courageous and alive, as you dig deep to provide the heat winter withholds. 'In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer,' wrote French Nobel Price winning author Albert Camus.

And when you see plants pull themselves boldly through the perennial pain of frost, you'll come to realise that the fight for survival - despite the South’s sombre climes - is the most beautiful tribute to life.

Over a book, warmed by the words on the page and the cup of tea in your hand, you can muse about what it all means to be alive. Sometimes a little hibernation is what it takes to heal; to thaw the deepest parts of yourself that have grown hard in the day-to-day hustle of constant activity.

And when you’re stuck in the moment, outside, vulnerable, with the cold wind whipping at your body and freezing you over – that’s when you hold tightly to the essence of warmth at the pit of your being. With whatever you can, you fan the flames that sustain you and embrace your desire to live this life. Maybe that's what winter is for.

Megan GrahamMegan Graham is a Melbourne based writer, journalist and occasional blogger.

Winter woman image by Shutterstock.

Topic tags: Megan Graham, seasons, winter, personal reflection, writing, creativity



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Existing comments

Winter is my favourite time of year. I have been known to disappear under my blanky for long periods of time. My youngest daughter, who doesn't like the cold weather, lives in Canberra so this winter I'm going to give her my possum gloves I bought in NZ. How does that saying go "cold hands, warm heart".

Pam | 02 June 2015  

For everything there is a season. In my later years I am embracing winter more and more. Mid winter is almost here and then begins the climb towards that unrelenting Adelaide summer.

Jenny Esots | 03 June 2015  

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