City & Politics

How to beat the winter blues

It’s late January, and the magic (or, alternately, the busyness) of the December holidays is long gone. There are no more Christmas lights, egg nog, party dresses, and eating too much good food at your parents’ house. The wool cardigan you bought on sale last August and spent all September waiting to wear is now starting to lose its novelty. We’re left with just winter now; a long stretch of short days, cold toes, and dry hands. With temperatures promising to stay frozen in the mid -20s range (and feeling like the mid -400,000s) this week, the Prairies seeming more like the frozen wastes of planet Hoth than a place for permanent human settlement.

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Understandably, our thoughts turn to the warmth of summer.

But rather than just resigning ourselves to hiding away with Netflix and a pile of blankets until March, here are some ideas on how to survive these cold days:

6. Start taking note of when it gets light in the morning. We may be in the middle of winter, but, slowly, the days are getting longer. It’s still only late January, but one can already notice the difference in the morning. Before you know it, the sun will be up before you are. And when that day comes, it will likely be warm enough to enjoy commuting again.

5. Listen to “Feel it all around” by Washed Out. Any song by Ernest Greene’s chillwave project will work, but when this song in particular is played, any unforgiving, wind-swept trudge across the Osborne Bridge becomes a running jump off a dock in the Whiteshell. Any search through pockets with frozen fingers for house keys becomes a lazy afternoon in Munson Park. Any ride on a dreary, slush-filled Portage Avenue bus becomes a sunset drive out to Patricia Beach with the windows down.

The author's family at Victoria Beach, circa 1963
The author’s family at Victoria Beach, circa 1963

4. Browse through your photographs from last summer. There’s the keepers that were met with a flurry of likes on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s also those random outtakes you forgot about. Among these, you’ll find the little, vivid details of summer: the white sand at Victoria Beach, the green grass in Assiniboine Park, the tan legs you once had. These photos offer the memories of last summer, but also the promise of the sand, grass, warmth, and sun to come this year.

3. Walk around the Tropical House at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Okay, this is a desperate move, because it smells awful in there. But it smells awful because it’s actually humid. Remember humidity? It’s when rubbing your hands together doesn’t sound like sandpaper on wood.

The wintery landscape of the Turtle Mountains in southwest Manitoba

2. Keep a mickey of Malibu in your desk drawer. Maybe you don’t like Malibu (or pretend you don’t), and maybe you’ll continue drinking your stout, wintery drinks (mulled wine?), but just keep this suntan lotion-smelling rum around for sniffing as needed.

1. Embrace winter. The best way to make the time pass is to keep busy, and winter will go by quicker the more you can just accept it and live it to the fullest. Let’s not go overboard with our thinking about how fortunate we are to live in a place with such diverse and strongly defined seasons. But, we kind of are. Let’s take advantage of winter.

There’s a great beauty in the winter landscape, and even during a deep freeze, being outside can actually be quite enjoyable when one is dressed for it (layers upon layers). Take up cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or dog sledding. Get some friends together and play hockey on an outdoor rink. Call up your brother in Beausejour and borrow his snowmobile. The river skating trail system at The Forks is increasingly becoming one of Winnipeg’s best seasonal attractions, and currently extends seven kilometres. This year, it features a pop-up restaurant that you may have heard about.

The small, gradual order of triumphs — the first sunny day over 5 C, dusting off the boat shoes, the inaugural trip to the beach — will all come eventually. They always do. In the meantime, it’s possible to survive and even appreciate the season we’re in.