Weekend assignment #198: Winter’s Winning Ways

We’re officially still within the first 30 days of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, so we’ve got quite a bit of it to get through before the spring solstice. This may therefore be a good time to cultivate an appreciation for the season, which I will encourage thus: Weekend Assignment #198: What is your favorite thing about winter? Whether you love this time of year, hate it or merely endure it, you should be able to find something good to say about the season. What is it? Extra credit: What do you hate most about winter?

*If you’d like to participate in this week’s Weekend Assignment, write your post and leave a link in the comments to this post at Outpost Mavarin; a new post with links to all the participants will go up this coming Thursday. The roundup of responses to last week’s assignment, about what we’re doing without new TV shows during the writers’ strike, is here.*

At the risk about sounding really obnoxious, these days I have to admit that what I like best about winter is the fact I don’t really have to deal with it; I moved to Southern California five years ago. Winter where I live tends to mean rain – if we’re lucky. Last year was one of the driest on record, and while we did get some significant rain last weekend, there’s still a pretty big precipitation deficit to overcome. But many days of a SoCal winter are like this Saturday was – sunny, mild, breezy, and one of the reasons why people who don’t live here don’t want to talk to us in February. We do get chilly days, and wet days, but not much that resembles “winter” by the standards of most of the country. However, this part of California is known for “micro-climates,” which means you don’t have to travel very far to get a noticeable change in the geography and the weather; travel about 50-75 miles inland and up a few thousand feet above sea level, and you can visit the snow. Head north to the Sierras, and there’s winter sports galore, even when it’s not winter. I’ve been to Mammoth Mountain in mid-June, throwing snowballs with my husband and stepkids.

But I grew up in the Northeast, and lived in central New York State for several years during my twenties, so it’s not like I’ve never experienced winter, or seen the way a blanket of snow transforms a neighborhood. When my son and his girlfriend were visiting over Christmas, we were driving around looking at the decorated houses, and I guess people in my town go in for much bigger displays than Jessica, a Connecticut native, is used to seeing; she wondered if maybe people used more lights to compensate for there not being any snow. Maybe so, but white icicle lights on a house aren’t nearly the same as a white Christmas. However, even when I did live where those were a possibility, I recall having had quite enough of snow by mid-February: snow is a lot more fun when you don’t have to clean it off your car, shovel it out of the way, and then drive in it. If you can stay home and watch the snow fall, though, and then go out and play in it with your family, I think it’s a magical experience no matter how old you are, and that brings me to my favorite thing about winter – snow days! They’re the best when you live somewhere where snow is rare enough that just a couple of inches shuts everything down and you really can have it as an unexpected vacation day, which is one of the things I miss most about Tennessee winters; the Northeast is a lot more matter-of-fact about frozen precipitation of less than a foot, as I recall.

Recalling my Northeastern winters also reminds me of what I like least about the season; days, and sometimes weeks, of gray sky and clouds. The short hours of daylight during the winter months often were pretty dark, and going for extended periods without sunshine can be tough on a person. However, not having to live with it anymore, I’m aware of how much weather like that taught me to appreciate a beautiful day – even here in Southern California, where beautiful days are far more the rule than the exception, and easier to take for granted at any time of year. About the only thing about winter out here that’s objectionable is the way that the rainy season makes people’s driving even worse than usual.

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  1. My favorite thing about winter: the rain. My least favorite thing: the cold. I know it doesn’t get quite as cold here as it does in other places, but being that I’m not acclimated to those colder regions, it’s immaterial to me.

  2. Literary Feline – Are you a Southern California native, by any chance? Your point about the perception of cold weather being relative to what you’re acclimated to is well taken.

    I actually don’t mind the rain – that is, if I can stay home and don’t have to drive in it. Just like snow. My dog hates it, though. 🙂

  3. My dog isn’t fond of the rain either. 🙂

    I’m actually not native to California, although I’ve lived in the state most of my life. I lived in Northern California for a number of years and it’s the closest to “back home” I have. I’ve lived in the southern part of the state for over 16 years now in various locations (counting college years). Eighteen if you count the two years I lived at Camp Pendleton as a young child.

  4. I married a SoCal native (this time), but it’s always interesting to know where people are from.

    I think Gypsy, my dog, likes it better here than she did in Tennessee because she doesn’t have to endure the rain nearly as often! 🙂 She’s a shepherd mix and not particularly water-friendly.