Tag Archives: Winter

On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

A desk lamp shining down on a houseplantMy name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant.

Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring.

If winter in Ontario included as many bright, sunny days as spring and summer did, this post might be quite different.

But our winters include months of long, dark nights that make me half-forget what it’s like to feel warm sunlight on my face.

And having access to enough bright light is important for my mental health. It boggles my mind that some people on this planet live in places that don’t see the sun for months on end. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that well at all unless someone invents a way for humans to go dormant for the winter like real plants do.

Luckily, there are light therapy lamps for wilted houseplants like myself. I’ve been basking in the glow of that artificial sunshine this winter.

Sometimes I sat there and surfed the Internet on my cell phone. It was an especially good way to pass the time when I first accepted the fact that I needed to use one of these lamps but was skeptical about if it would do any good.

If actual plants had opposable thumbs, they might look at cute animal pictures while soaking up light, too, so they didn’t have to count down how many weeks left until spring or how many weeks after that it will take the weather systems in Ontario to shift from cold, wet, and slushy to anything that bears the faintest resemblance to true spring weather.

Then it started to work.The sadness began to lessen. I could concentrate better, I felt less sluggish, my energy levels slowly began rising, and my quality of sleep improved.

Am I back to my old self yet? No, but I’m doing better. That’s something to celebrate, especially as we inch into the time of the year that is the most challenging for me to get through.

For now I sit next to my lamp and chuckle at the fact that I react so much to the lack or the presence of sufficiently strong light. I am entirely human-shaped, and yet somehow I still need to bask in light like a plant to function properly.

When that thought passes, others don’t take its place. In this moment, I am surrounded by light. I breathe in and out as it shines onto me, the desk, the chair, and the floor.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that simple.

An Exclusive Interview with Winter

Person standing in a 6+ foot tall tunnel built into thick walls of snow and ice. Last year I interviewed spring and autumn. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with winter!

I’ll conclude this series with an interview with summer later on this year…that is, assuming winter eventually decides to concede their post.

Winter: Hey, I heard that!

Lydia: My apologies. I didn’t think you’d join us quite so soon.

Winter:  Well, I was a little tardy showing up this year. And spring did warn me about you. 😉

Lydia: Heh, I heard a few things about you from spring as well. How have you been?

Winter: Things are changing rapidly for me. I’m sure you’ve all noticed how winter is different than it was in generations past.

Lydia: Yes, we sure have. How has climate change affected your work? It sure seems like your season has changed the most as a result of it so far.

Winter: I’ve noticed the same thing. Of course there have been shifts in our patterns in the past, but never this severe or rapid. It’s one thing to switch off duties with spring or autumn during the transition periods, but now it’s happening in the middle of my shift!

Lydia: That must make managing the weather pretty tricky.

Frozen Rose covered in frostWinter: It sure does. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even finally going to meet Summer one of these days. Spring and summer say we have oddly similar personalities.

Lydia: Hopefully, that won’t happen. Summer has been dealing with extreme temperatures, too.

Winter: What, you don’t want a heatwave and a blizzard in the same day?

Lydia: As tempting as that would be in the heat of August, I think the plants wouldn’t like that.

Winter: Well, I don’t like the plants!

Lydia: Wait, what?

Winter: I’m totally joking there. I forget that not everyone gets my frosty sense of humour.

Lydia: Okay, good. I was quite surprised for a second.

Winter: I’m not actually supposed to know the plants. Most of them die or hibernate by the time I show up, and the few stragglers left aren’t the best conversationalists.

Lydia: Does this mean all of the seasons are able to talk to the plants?

Winter: Yes, but humans weren’t supposed to know that. Forget I said anything.

Lydia: No worries, I won’t press the issue, but I’m going to keep this in mind for my conversation with Summer.

Winter: Just don’t tell them I said anything. Proprietary secrets of the trade and all. So what else do you want to know?

A frosted windowpane. Lydia: What can you tell me about Jack Frost?

Winter: He moved to Alaska recently for the balmy weather, but he’s still keeping his main home in the North Pole.

Lydia: That’s fascinating. Do you speak to him often? How would you describe your relationship with him?

Winter: He’s a serious, hardworking guy, but I know almost nothing about his personal life. You should interview him after you’ve talked to summer.

Lydia: I’ll do that! Thanks for stopping by, winter. This conversation has been very illuminating.

Winter: The pleasure is all mine.

3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Person wearing brown boots and blue denim. The're standing on snow and their boots are caked in snow. Mall walking is a form of exercise involving people walking briskly through the long corridors of shopping malls before the stores open for the day when there are very few other folks about.

This is the time of year when I begin to yearn for spring. It’s one thing to experience snowstorms in November and December when the memory of summer is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Winter weather somehow feels even colder and snowier when it’s been happening for a couple of months already and can be expected to keep popping up for at least two more of them.

Luckily, Toronto has plenty of malls to walk around in while the temperatures plunge and snow falls outside. There is definitely something to be said for taking advantage of all of that dry, temperature-controlled space until April arrives.

If you haven’t tried mall walking yet this winter, here are three reasons why it might be a good idea to give it a shot.

It’s Scaleable

Child running up a flight of stepsWalking can be made as easy or as difficult as it needs to be to meet your current fitness goals.

It can be a short, gentle stroll through the mall for someone who is brand new to exercise or just coming back to it after an accident or illness.

A long, brisk power walk might be a good choice for someone who has been exercising for a while and wants to increase their endurance.

I’ve even seen people run up multiple flights of stairs while on walks in order to give their muscles and cardiovascular systems a bigger challenge. Note: I don’t recommend this one on busy days at the mall or other public places!

It’s as Sociable or Solitary as You Prefer

Two people walking indoors. There is a large wall filled with glass windows behind them. I’m the sort of person who loves walking with a partner or group of people. There’s something about walking and talking that makes both of those things much more appealing to me than they’d be on their own.

The nice thing about walking at a mall is that either of these options is perfectly safe and acceptable.

There are certain places like parks that I don’t feel safe visiting early in the morning and late at night when few other folks are around because I am a short, petite woman. This is even more true during the winter when the sun rises late and sets early.

Malls always have security guards patrolling them, and no matter how early I might show up in the morning I’ve always seen other mall walkers there as well.

I really like being able to get a walk in at the mall by myself or with someone else without needing to think about safety factors like these.

It’s Warm, Dry, and Indoors

People walking around in a brightly lit mallTaking an outdoor walk on a warm, spring day in Ontario is a pleasant experience.

In February? Not so much. Our winters can be beautiful, but they’re also generally wet, icy, and freezing cold for months on end.

While I definitely prefer walking outdoors, it is nice to have a place to go during the winter where you can unzip your coat and walk around without slipping on any ice or snow.

Malls have plenty of flat, even surfaces to walk on. The ones I visit are kept very clean and dry, especially if you visit early in the day before the biggest crowds show up.

There are times during winter and early spring when I impatiently wait for the weather to warm up again. I doubt I’ll ever look forward to this part of the year, but I do appreciate having such nice places to move around in while the weather outdoors is cold, icy, snowy, muddy, rainy, and sometimes all of those things at once in a single day!

If you live near a mall, how often do you go there to exercise?

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Image of a person's legs as they walk on a snowy, icy surface.This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes.

Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short days, and frequent snowstorms means I generally spend a lot of time indoors.

I do so much of my exercising outdoors from spring to autumn, so this also means that getting workouts in is trickier at this time of the year than at any other. With that being said, there are still advantages to getting outdoors for a walk in the winter.

The Blissful Solitude

Tree standing in a snowy field. The tree has some snow covering its branches. While I mentioned something pretty similar to this in my post about spring hikes, but it bears repeating again for this season. There are always some people walking around in my area, but you definitely see fewer of them on cold days.

As an introvert, I love this. There’s nothing like going to the park and having it all – or nearly all – to yourself.

The same can be said for walking down a street that is generally quite crowded in warmer weather. Rather than dodging strangers, I can focus on looking at all of the little things I might not have noticed about the architecture of the buildings I pass or the new plants at the park or forest that appeared since my last visit.

The Quiet Consistency

Woman walking down a city street during a blizzardThe months between April and November are filled with changes in the natural world here in southern Ontario. I revel in every change I see as plants sprout leaves, flowers bloom, or the first trees began to change colours for the season.

Winter is a long pause in this cycle every year. It’s just about impossible to look outdoors and immediately know whether we’re in the first week of December or the last week of March.  Every day more or less looks the same during those months unless there’s been an ice storm or snowstorm recently.

There’s something to be said for appreciating that consistency. Spring will arrive eventually. In the meantime, I don’t need to think about whether a plant hanging over the side of the sidewalk is poison ivy or whether I’ve photographed that flower already.

Winter is a time of rest. I’m coming to appreciate that.

The Cold, Crisp Air

Clouds being blown by a breeze. A year or two ago, I noticed that the temperatures were a bit cooler one August morning than they’d been that previous week. I decided to set out for a walk before the true heat of the day set in.

It took less than half a block for my body to become so drenched in perspiration that I headed back home for a cold glass of water. What I wouldn’t have given for a gust of cold, crisp air that day!

As much as I always look forward to spring, there is definitely something to be said for being able to exercise outdoors without getting dehydrated, developing a sunburn, or sweating through my clothes a few short minutes after leaving the house.

If you live in a part of the world that has winter and you spend time outdoors exercising during that season, what do you like most about it?

How Winter Has Changed Over My Lifetime

Lately, I’ve been thinking about climate change and how the expectations of what winter, or any other season, will be like in the average year are changing.

The official graphs and charts that show how rapidly the average temperatures are climbing from one decade to the next are obviously quite important, but I think there’s something to be said for listening to and writing down anecdotes about the climate as well. Future generations might like to know what things were like when we were young and the Earth was colder.

My first clear memories of winter happened in the early 1990s. My family lived in Wyoming then, and our town was nestled so close to the Rocky Mountains that we regularly saw heavy snowstorms between the months of October and May.

I think my family was snowed in at least once during these storms. There is only so much plowing that can be done before the blizzard wins and everyone needs to stay off those slippery roads for safety reasons.

Before I tell this next story, keep in mind that I was always petite for my age growing up. Not every child would have been light enough to pull this off, but I do have memories of walking on top of frozen snowbanks when I was about seven or eight years old. The snow had melted a little, and when it refroze it created a sort of crust on top of it that I could just barely walk on top of. I felt like a superhero and was a little disappointed the next winter when I realized that I was too heavy to do that trick again. (The funny thing was, I remained one of smallest kids in my class all the way through to high school graduation!)

In the mid-1990s, my family moved back to Ohio. Every year we’d generally have at least a few days cancelled due to snow or ice storms. Ohio was a less snowy place than Wyoming, so I don’t remember quite as many times when the roads were closed due to storms as they did when we lived out west.

I do remember feeling a little surprised by the lessening amounts of snow as the years rolled on. Part of it was almost certainly due to the fact that I was growing into my full adult height and viewing snowdrifts from that perspective instead of the point of view of a young child, but I also wonder if I wasn’t noticing the effects of climate change.

The winter of 1998-1999 was an exception to that trend. We had a huge snowstorm at the tail end of Christmas break that delayed the reopening of school by about two weeks. My family just so happened to be moving into a new house then, so my first recollections of 1999 were of perpetually-damp boots, gloves, and hats drying by the radiator while we unpacked our belongings one minivan full of them at a time.

I moved to Toronto in 2005. The climate was fairly similar to Ohio, but I’ve noticed winters seem to be morphing into drier and more erratic versions of themselves here over time. We still have some snowstorms, but we’ve also had weird weeks in the dead of January or February where the temperatures climb into early spring numbers (10-15C, or roughly 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans) for a day or even a week before growing cold again.

This is truly bizarre, and I wonder if it will become the new normal for future generations. Will they no longer need heavy winter jackets, gloves, hats, and scarves? How will they react to the thought of a winter that doesn’t thaw out again until March? I suspect they won’t understand that concept at all, except as an academic exercise when they read about what life was like before climate change.

I’m interested in hearing your stories about how winter has changed and is changing where you live. If you live in a climate that doesn’t have winter, feel free to talk about how the weather is changing in whatever ways you might have noticed since you were a kid.

Winter Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Toronto has been enjoying milder winter weather this past week or two, but it looks like our temperatures are soon going to plummet once again. Every time this has happened during the winter of 2017-2018, my mind has drifted to the stories I’ve read about imaginary or otherworldly wintery places that appealed to me for… Read More

Saturday Seven: Cold Weather Reads

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Since this is the first Saturday Seven, I’ll explain it briefly for my readers. It’s a weekly meme for writers, bloggers, and book lovers in general. Every week you pick any book, writer, or author-related topic you’d like and make a list of seven things that… Read More