Winter Rituals

We’re approaching the shortest day of the year, which marks the official start of winter. We’ve had some snow, and some lingers in the grass, but more snow has stuck around in other years. Parts of the lake are freezing already, and skaters are at play.


Squirrels and bears and foxes around us have been preparing for a full season already. The stretch of grass between our porch and my car is lumpy with squirrel treasures, buried there for “later.”


Recently, the dark fox came trotting up near the house, carrying something. It scouted and pawed in various places, apparently looking for soft dirt to bury its prize. I couldn’t get close enough to see what the prize was. I'd feel like a busybody if I looked for it now, though I confess to wandering around where the fox might have had easier digging. (No luck.)



Our human rituals are slightly different. A thermostat drives our heating system, so the heat comes on some nights as early as August, before I remember to reset the temperatures. By October, we've figured out our tolerance for chilliness, and the thermostat is pretty well set for the next seven months.


Otherwise, most of our "welcome winter" rituals have to do with bedding. Each time I change sheets in October, I wonder whether it’s time to make the bed with the blanket, or if the blanket at the foot of the bed, ready to be drawn up, is enough.


By November, there's a blanket under the bedspread AND one on the end of the bed. Our sheets are cold when we get in, and I wonder if it’s time to use the knit set. Something about the soft t-shirt material is magic during those transition seasons, warm in November/December, but cool against my skin in the May/June time.


At some point, we’ll have to break out the flannelette sheets. “Have to”—I actually love them. We have several sets, some more snuggly than others, but all welcome in late December and January, when our bedroom is the coldest room in the house, thanks to windows to the northeast. (Worth it.) 

This year, I've not put on the t-shirt sheets even. With temperatures hovering around freezing during the day, I haven't needed them. I need flannel sheets to look forward to when the cold and wind grow. 

I love the “yin time” of winter. It’s a time to drowse and dream, to spin stories and commune with other writers, dead and alive. Rest. Refresh. Renew.


There’s something satisfying—adult, nurturing—about making these decisions. Even noticing the accumulating signs of winter feels good. Solid. Like my feet are firm in this place.


And believe me, when the signs of winter’s end start accumulating, I'll be on the lookout for them, too.