Breathing a Little Life into the ‘Dead of Winter’

Editor’s Note

Would anyone else like to know the name of the dour sourpuss who first used the unfortunate term “dead of winter?”

That person I blame for all the bad PR that has been shoveled on the beautiful and blameless season of winter.

Largely because of that warped idiomatic expression, we wrongly continue to hang epithets and ugly thoughts around the neck of this lovely season.

Of course cold and darkness can lead to despair. I get that. I’ve lived through some very cold and dark times.

Reading Orwell’s 1984 in ninth-grade English during an especially brutal winter in Duluth, Minnesota, my weak, 14-year-old mind succumbed to the societal stereotype that winter is the dead season, and that the sad, oppressed people of the novel lived in a perpetual winter bleakness — if not a physical winter, then certainly a spiritual one.

It took me a few years to grow up to the idea that sometimes winter is the only time when you really are alive, and a winter landscape can be as breathtaking as anything you see in any other season.

Even though winter has a huge social holiday season on the front end, it is the most private of seasons. Many of us cocoon ourselves against the cold and dark in our well-lighted homes, waiting for the thaw so we can emerge, flittery social butterflies again.

Perhaps we would all emerge with more moral and spiritual heft at the end of the season if we took the opportunity to savor this quietest of seasons?

I can’t help thinking of that stupidest of questions asked of Door County residents: What do you do in the winter?

How about this?

Our joy for the season knows no bounds.

I know winter seems like a cold and heartless season, but that is only on the surface. Look deeper and you will see into the warm heart of winter: the thing that as a child made you jump for joy to see the first big snowfall of the season.

Dormancy is not death. The concept implies rebirth. Life goes on in winter, but at a different, more relaxed pace. What’s wrong with that?

Me? This is the winter when I plan to read the complete works of Charles Dickens, watch all 50 films of Brian De Palma, maybe get the drum set I’ve always wanted and have a maximum amount of fun. In no particular order.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim from Dickens’ great winter novella (hey, I bet he’s the nimrod who started the whole “dead of winter” thing), “Happy winter, every one!”

Jim Lundstrom

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