I am not a winter person; never have been, never will be. Why I have spent most of my adult life in greater Chicago remains a mystery at the core of my being.
This time every year that mystery keeps me awake nights, not because I am chilled even under multiple quilt covers but rather because of one throbbing question, “What am I doing here?”
I hate being cold. I like to think it goes against my nature. Having to bundle up to conserve my globular warmth and straining worn muscles to pull on my overshoes does not endear wintering to me.
I have said many times that if in fact there is a hell and I have earned a place there, if God knows me well enough, hell will be ice, not fire.
In my youth, even making snowballs, snowmen and snow forts was no fun, especially when my frozen fingers, under double gloves, screamed in frostbitten pain.
Come every October I find myself longing for spring. Vail and Aspen beckon only in July, when snow is far enough and high enough away to soothe my soul but not chill my body. February? During its long, dark days I become a recluse, staying indoors as much as I can because I have grown tired of walking on icy sidewalks, fighting an icy wind that brings icy tears to my eyes.
Over the years, however, I have resigned myself to being here because spring, summer and fall by the lake make the misery worth it. What gets me through, especially in these later, winter-fragile years, are common sense and a few practical rules:
1. Don’t go out without a hat.
2. Say no when I don’t want to go, or even when I want to but the risk is too great.
3. Keep close to a cup of very hot coffee.
4. Make the most of every bit of sunshine.
5. Wear a sweat suit and thick, warm socks to bed.
None of the above makes winter pass any faster, nor would I call the rules survival tips. Short of moving south, I figure by now I know how to survive whatever nastiness comes my way. After all, I am still at it. The rules are merely practical.
Though I dislike wearing them, in winter hats can help to avoid colds, maybe even the flu. Saying no wisely guards against missteps and broken bones. A warm cup of coffee heats the innards as well as fingertips.
Every glint of sun can point to spring, while a sweat suit and thick socks offer a nightly hint of hibernation, the animal’s or nature’s way of wintering.
To me, four seasons are better then two. I could settle for three, but then I would not be in greater Chicago where, fortunately, warmth is not measured by winter’s bite but by its people, all year round.
I think I just found the answer to my question.