Winter Rears Its Beautiful, Horrible Ass Face

I’ve had to interrupt my previously scheduled post to bring you this breaking news: Holy shit, it is snowing!

I have tried over the years to come to appreciate winter more. I really have. I know there are lots of reasons to appreciate and even enjoy this time of year; I just don’t care about those reasons in the face of months and months of permanently frozen extremities. Intellectually, I understand the importance of winter in this region as it pertains to the ecosystem. Wild life rely on it. Plants need it. We need it. I get it. Winter is good. Snow is good.

Aesthetically, a newly fallen snow is a very beautiful site to behold. Snowflakes are magical. I am fascinated by all of the plants that stay green and thriving underneath a thick blanket of snow. You can make snow angels, although I must warn you that this requires laying down in the horribleness. Sledding is fun at any age; however, I would advise against it if you have hip or knee problems. I like the way things look through my camera when you can see the bones of the trees. I appreciate the simplified image I can capture when a blanket of white cuts out the details and lays the world bare.

Why, just the other day I came up with a new benefit. You see? I am always brainstorming for the good side. I am a beacon of hopeful positivity! The frozen ground and snow coverage prevents the squirrels from digging up my freshly planted bulbs. Score one point for me. I think that makes it Me: 2 — Squirrels: Still winning. Oh, but I am making headway.

I have lived my entire 38 years in this part of Canada. I have experienced winter, frozen earth, light snowfall, slush, icy sidewalks, sprained wrists caused by falling over on icy sidewalks, blizzards, being snowed in, digging out the family car, having to walk to the grocery store through snow up to my waist… I am no stranger to winter weather. I want to be a glowing, earth mother goddess type who welcomes the changing of all seasons with open arms and lush, poetic prose. I want to make you sick with my positive outlook and super-refined, harmonious connection to all of Gaia’s rhythms.

Alas, it just isn’t in my blood. My people come from the tropics and my genetic makeup refuses to let it go. I absolutely abhor the sound of certain type of snow as it crunches underfoot. It causes a physical, cringing sensation akin to nails on a chalkboard that goes right through my whole body. I am physically happier, healthier, and more comfortable overall when I am warm. I really like the sun and the feeling of that warmth on my face. I prefer the chaos of thick greenery to the silence of a white field. I am not contented with a shortened growing season. I miss spending time outdoors, mucking about like a kid in a sandbox through the months when digging the frozen ground calls for the services of nothing less than a flame thrower and a backhoe.

In other words, try as I might, I am not a fan of the winter. But we do have socialized health care and a nice quality of life here so for those reasons I am very grateful to have been born in Canada, despite three or so months of OMG WHEN WILL THIS CRUCIFIXION BE OVER!

Tell me, how do you feel about winter and snow?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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47 thoughts on “Winter Rears Its Beautiful, Horrible Ass Face

  1. I hate winter and snow so much that I moved to the one part of Canada where we only really get about a week of it. Hell, I’m not even above the 49th anymore!

  2. Wow, you couldn’t have summed it up better for me if you tried. That is exactly how I feel about winter, too, and I am trying–oh I am trying–to embrace it and find ways to enjoy the winter months. (Like appreciating that I can work from home while there is ice falling from the sky right now.) We’ll get through it!

  3. I am in agreement, especially this year with our Halloween snowstorm that knocked my power out for a week! However, I will say that I got my first seed catalog last week. Can we put that in the win column?

  4. “You can make snow angels, although I must warn you that this requires laying down in the horribleness.”

    Laughing, hard.

    Having moved to a colder/northern climate relatively recently, I am in the boat with you. I like parts of it (a break from gardening, actually, time to hunker down and plan and dream), but I would be happier if winter confined itself to January and February, with minimal snow, and gave us the rest of the months back. Too long, too dark, too cold.

  5. i thoroughly enjoyed this post…too funny! winter is a lot less harsh where i am (charlotte, nc) but i still dread being cold. the short days bother me even more. thank god for houseplants and seed catalogs. and florida.

  6. I love all the seasons. While I dislike the constant dark of winter by they end of summer I can’t wait for fall and finally winter to be here. Bundling up in layers, hot tea, snuggling down with a good book, the serene beauty of freshly fallen snow, I love it all.

  7. This made my day! I grew up in a ridiculously HOT place and it’s the heat that makes me feel like the snow makes you feel. (I am a fan of sunshine, though, as I discovered quite strongly during graduate school in northern England.) The thing that bothers me most about winter is not the weather, but the short days and lack of light… I feel like I’m always in the dark. I have lived in many places, some with “real winters,” and some without. My current home in the soft old mountains of Appalachians is just about perfect – enough of that white stuff on occasion to make you grateful for summer but not enough to drive you to snapping like Jack Nicholson in The Shining! Oh, and winter’s best quality: cashmere sweaters and boots!

  8. I moved to NC when I 29 yrs old and I never minded the winter but the older I get the worse it is and I really miss
    messing around in my vegetable and herb garden. I just it was shorter.

  9. My family hails from a northern climate (northern Finland and Sweden) and they chose a similar climate when they came to the US – the southern shore of Lake Superior. I think I got a throwback gene, because nothing about winter appeals to me. I hate being cold. I find nothing about snow fun. The darkness at 5 pm – it makes me want to hibernate. Yet I married a man who is CRAZY about winter, and have birthed a boy who appears to feel the same way. My luck, my children will take up hockey or skiing or some other horrible sport requiring me to sit and be cold outside, instead of being nice and warm inside.

    I used to cross country ski, and downhill ski. And sometimes I’m seized by a wild thought to go outside for a snowy walk. Then I get outside and realize I’m insane, and try to get inside before the snot freezes my nose shut.

  10. After living most of my life in the northeast I vowed to move to California where I would only see snow on distant mountain peaks. I went 5 or 6 years without seeing snow but then foolishly went home to NJ last March to visit my family and got stuck in two blizzards.

    Last night I informed my father that next year I will be visiting him in May. I’m kind of annoyed that I had to reset the “no snow” meter but now I am at 9 months and counting.

  11. I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I love the snow but I hate the really, really cold weather (I’m talking -40, which in Calgary isn’t unusual).

  12. I’m loving all of your comments! We’re gonna get through this trial together. Meanwhile, the snow is now almost all gone. Crisis averted. For now.

  13. Ha! This sums up my feelings exactly! I try to love winter, and my five year old tells me that I should, and try as I might, I just can’t get into loving it, or even liking it. The six winters I spent on Kauai were the most pleasant of my life! Now I live in North Idaho, almost to the Canadian border, and we get snow, and then it rains, and ruins the fluffness of it. I try to comfort myself with lots of good food that we have put away, and it helps, but I still dream of moving to the tropics. Viva La Summer!

  14. I moved to California for this reason as well. I hate the cold. I am also not a fan of extreme heat, so we live in Santa Cruz, where it pretty much stays between 60 and 80 (farenheit) year round. I have literally never been as happy as I am living here. We go back east to Minneapolis or Philadelphia for Christmas each year, and each year it makes me grateful to not live there any more.

    Why don’t you move south, Gayla? Think of the year-round gardening you could do in the caribbean, or Texas, or California? I say if it’s in your bones, you could find a way. Though the healthcare thing is kind of a big deal. So I suppose I get that.

  15. I just moved from Toronto to Los Angeles. I swore it wouldn’t happen to me, but: I miss the seasons. I’m no big fan of winter, and maybe it’s just homesickness and maybe it’s some kind of climate-related Stockholm syndrome, but I miss the seasons. Time has sort of stopped here, and there is no weather: every day is much the same as the last. The days are shorter and it’s a bit cooler, a few trees are slowly dropping leaves, but otherwise not much is happening. It felt strange to have Thanksgiving and Halloween without fall, and stranger to have Christmas without winter.
    But that’s just me! Gayla, why don’t you move down here and see whether you miss winter?

  16. OMG you have winter for 3 whole months?! Where I live, in northern BC, winter lasts 6, way to long months. It starts snowing in mid November, The ground stays frozen and white until April/ May. I love downhill skiing, backcountry skiing, classic skiing and this year I’m learning how to skate ski. I may as well embrace winter!

  17. Melanie: I am probably under-exaggerating for my own mental health. We often get the first snow sometime in mid-late Nov, although it never sticks around. The ground is usually frozen sometime in mid-late December. But there have been years when things were still happening in Jan.

    I can start planting some things out in March and that is usually when I see the first crocus. Of course, if I were to go by the first and last frost dates the season would be much longer. But I can grow well after and before those dates so I don’t count them in that way.

  18. I think the answer is to purchase a winter home in California – or perhaps East Coast is more realistic for travel from Toronto – and stay only long enough to be considered a visitor thereby retaining the benefits of Canadian citizenship which you enjoy.

  19. I grew up in a snow belt (not particularly cold but a lot of snow) and have since lived in a really, really hot climate and in a really, really cold one. When I moved to Toronto I was astonished to see what people (women especially) wear in the winter. I see most Toronto women out in short snug jackets or coats, no scarf, no hat, and often no gloves and just wearing shoes. No wonder you are freezing!

    I don’t like cold but was brought up to dress for it. Specifically, my clothes are wool, not synthetic which does not insulate from cold, and I wear long loose coats (easy to layer under), wool scarf, wool hat, wool or sheepskin mitts, and warm boots which have rubber soles and don’t slip. I am almost never cold unless it’s really windy. And I don’t care if I don’t look chic or elegant, just want to be warm.

    Regarding the hot climate (specifically, India), I found that I lost track of time since the seasons almost didn’t exist and got really tired of wearing the same clothes all year. And you can only take off so many clothes when it’s really hot. After that you are just bloody uncomfortable! I’ll take Canada any day.

  20. Marjory: There is more than one kind of woman here in Toronto. I take some offense to the assumption. Sorry, but I still don’t like the winter, regardless of how warmly I am dressed.

  21. This is when my perennial bed becomes my backyard birding center. I don’t deadhead in this bed so that I’ll have lots of seedheads to bring them in (goldfinches love the echinacea). Leaving all the dead canes from the plants provides cover, which also draws them in. I invested in a good squirrel-proof feeder stand, and I have 1 thistle feeder, 1 with black oil sunflower seeds, & 1 suet block. The kids & I have breakfast with the birds every morning all winter, and I love to watch the action throughout the day, and snowy days are very busy. Some day I will have the time to teach the chickadees to eat from my hand. Gardening & birding complement each other well, I think, and fiiling the feeders me a reason to go outside & putter even on the dreariest days. Maybe a little feeder to watch would cheer you on–you might have more species diversity than you think.

  22. My opinion? Weather is bullshit. :) That’s why I moved away from the Pacific Northwest and now live in northern California. 60′s and sunny all week, almost all year (except for those rare weeks we have a cold snap and it’s in the 50′s, or when we have a heat wave and it might *gasp* climb above 75).

  23. Lol….love winter. But…then again, I love fall, spring, and summer! Each season brings something new to photograph. Although truthfully, I must admit,I am not built for 100 degree weather. I much rather have snow than that!

  24. My ancestors come from Great Britain (England, Scotland, Ireland, France). I have lived all of my 41 years on the East Coast of Canada. I still don’t like winter. I hate being cold.

    We had our first snow last week – 30 cm in one day. I hid inside. But then the weather warmed up and it’s all melted now. I love it. :)

  25. I live in Anchorage, Alaska (transplanted from warmer climes), where it’s closer to 5 months of snowy horribleness–our ground has been covered in snow since just before Halloween. Though we don’t get snow to our waists–at least, not often? (I’m still fairly new, in my third winter. Maybe that does happen.)

    And while I’m not all glowy earth mother about it, either, I guess I am … stoic about it? I know winter happens, but I know it’s followed by a glorious, not-too-warm summer. I hate and fear ice, but I find snow pretty. I enjoy having some time to rest from summer’s frenetic pace. I refuse to do indoor things in the summer, so that gives me cross-stitching and gaming and drinking hot tea and any number of activities to look forward to, in the winter. I spend time sitting in my big comfy chair, working on crafts and looking out at the snow in my yard and being delighted that I’m indoors where it’s warm. And that’s not so bad. :)

    Boy do I hate cleaning snow and ice off the car, though, and waiting for it to warm up. :P

  26. We’ve had our first snowfall (and resulting power loses) Halloween weekend. Ruined a perfectly lovely holiday weekend.

    I can agree on the crunchy snow as well. A nice soft, fluffy snow is way better. Before it turns to mushy, slushy yuckiness.

    Every year when I get suck in a wintery doldrum I remind myself that I am blessed to have four seasons, well defined and complete instead of one temperature all year. I’ve lived in the south, and while it was nice, its no fun to see pants and sweaters for fall clothes without it being cool enough to wear them.

  27. Hahah I’m with ya. I got warm climates in my blood and since I’ve discovered tropical gardening in the North I’m pretty much over winter. Not that I was ever into it really, I’d pick a beach and a margarita over a ski slope and some coco. My condolences on the snowstorm, I’m hoping for no snow this year, and so far, so good.

  28. omg, so damn funny. I can’t relate at all — I’m hankering for some snow here in coastal california, an extreme change in the seasons, something — but I just love your writing. especially when you’re raging at winter. enjoy that socialized health care. I’ll take some of that too!

  29. I might appreciate the indoor cooped up time more this winter than any of the other 8 years I’ve been in Canada because I’m TIRED. This was a really tough year for a lot of reasons. You get to a certain age when you start losing friends and family members that are around your parents’ age and that’s very sad and sobering. We lost a few, including our Mario Le Mew cat of 17 1/2 years.

    On top of that, the gardening year tried my soul and my patience. The cold wet spring kept me from planting on time. Plants tried to harden off and died in the process. Plants got rootbound and never recovered. Then July was Texas hot with no rain and August rained a lot causing cracks in the tomatoes. Tough tough tough. I’m ready to rest.

    That being said, I will probably cry at the first snow plow sighting. Eight years here and it’s never a happy thing to see. I hate it hate it hate it. My people come from California and Italy, so yeah, I get it – PREACH!

    Oh and I thought I was the only one who got physically sick at the snow crunching under my feet. Nasty sound, really nasty.

  30. Well, you caught my eye with the first sentence. Girl after my own heart! I think the snow should stay in the mountains myself, and I often catch myself yelling out, “holy shit”, too often. I was sort of surprised to find out your are so young! Keep at it, girl!

  31. I think I may be in the minority here. I LOVE winter, especially snow. I love the first snowfall of the year, and am a little depressed when it’s not before the end of November. I am one of those people who does better in the cold than the heat, unlike my husband. I remember, as a child, getting bundled up early in the morning to move and check cattle by horse; those memories are some of the most magical I have, with the sparkling snow in the early morning light. There are a few things I don’t like about winter and snow, namely snow blindness and high winds, but mostly, I’m a fan. The dogs think snow is strange and fun, which creates almost endless hilarity.

  32. This time last year we were already under a layer of snow at Botanic Bay (my garden in northern france).
    This year it is amazingly mild and we are still gardening like mad.
    One weekend of snow is great, after that it is a drag; dangerous on the roads, everything is messy and NO SUN !!

  33. I love winter. Always have. Granted, I grew up in South Florida, so what you consider summer is equivalent to our winters, but I’ve lived for the past few years in France and Switzerland and I love it. I expect in about ten years, I get sick of the ice, darkness, and cold; but it takes only three days of Florida summer to make me adore winter again. The worst part of that climate is the smell of sweat. It’s almost impossible to go out for lunch without sweating just a little between a scorching hot car or walking in the sun. On vacation Florida’s great, because you can wear shorts and light tops and jump in a pool when it’s too hot; but actual life is very different.

  34. Well I live way down south, in Iowa. in the US. lol Iowa is no joy. It is frequently colder here in the winter then in Alaska. The irony of that is not lost on me. My people are all from various nothern climes, including the dna of a thousand Vikings pumping through my veins. I still hate winter. There’s a reason the Vikings went pillaging and roaming all over Europe, they were trying to stay warm. At least Iowa is better then Minnesota, their summer was on a Wednesday last year.

  35. I’m love the snow, but then it never lasts more than a week here. As of December 2, we’ve only had two frosts and we’ll have crocus up in January. No, I don’t live in California. I live in Seatte about 4 hours south of Britsh Columbia (hint, hint)

  36. No matter how I dress, I am always cold even when I am inside. I don’t even have air conditioning because I dislike the cold so much. I have, however, started to view winter through the eyes of a 4-year-old and it makes it tolerable – somewhat.

  37. I agree with you completely but like jen(above) am trying to appreciate it through the eyes of my 16month old who LOVES the cold! Lets hope it works! I don’t enjoy hating the winter weather.

  38. I find myself more and more depressed as winter gets deeper, I just see no end of it. I want to get out of Midwest! Yet I really like how it is more laid back here. I am able to own a garden here and not working too hard to make a living. Don’t think it would be the same in California or other desirable places to live.
    I just wish there is something as fulfilling as gardening I can do in winter. Religion? Yoga?

  39. ha i live in the Southern USA (Georgia) and i hate it too…it’s supposed to get to 29 degrees tonight with no precipitation, but lots of wind…. Hope we don’t get any snow like North Carolina is getting…i think someone said it’s “spitting” a little there…lol….I ABSOLUTELY HATE COLD WHEN I CAN’T GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY! thanks for letting me share that! :)

  40. I have always loved winter. Granted it is never too bad in the Pacific Northwest. As I get more into gardening I am finding it a great adventure to find edible plants that will hold up during the winter and so far the various Kales seem quite unfazed.

  41. I live in the mountains in the Alps and I love winter, the combination of white snow and blue sky is super stimulating, everything becomes so photogenic… (and I love skiing!) But when I use to live in lower lands in various cities , I remember it was a real pain, grey sky crushed my skull like a lid made of led, snow stained by pollution, miserable people … and I hated it there. So I suppose you need to experience it somewhere high up to appreciate it.
    Also to me winter is essential because it makes all the other seasons ever so colourful, like white paint next to any colour in a painting …

  42. Winter’s ass face certainly is horrible. My grandmother, zipping up my winter parka and tucking my scarf around my face when I was 5 years old, said this to me, as a warning: “Rachel, our people just aren’t made for winter.” I’ve never forgotten it. My body’s used to tropical temperatures, 12 hours of sun, and two seasons: dry and rainy, or hot and not-as-hot. Lord knows I love Canada, but she tests that love, every year. The blog picture is beautiful. Winter’s good at making the world pretty, so at least there’s that.

  43. Oh, you’ve summed up my feelings about winter pretty well. I’ve lived through a cold, snowy, miserable Wisconsin winter for all of my 31 years.

    One winter bonus I’d like to contribute though is that when it’s this cold out you can store your beer outside if you run out of room in the fridge. That’s all I got. Winter sucks.

  44. I hear ya, Sister! I live in Maine with Filippino blood and NO Healthcare!! However, I received a pair of snowshoes one year and I like donning them so I may wander deep into the woods where normally it would be more difficult to negotiate a path. Still…winter can suck.

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