Tag Archives: Winter

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.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Things to Do in the Winter

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Part of the reason why I’m so intrigued by this week’s prompt is that winter is my least favourite season of them all. Y’all, I have to admit that I do get a little grumpy by the end of it when it feels like we’re never going to have a warm, sunny day again, and this is coming from someone who actually lives in one of the less snowy parts of Canada!

I can’t imagine what it would be like to live somewhere like the Yukon Territories where “winter” weather essentially begins in late September and lasts until May or June.

Luckily, there are fun things to do when the weather outside is frightful. This is what i’ll be keeping myself busy with over the next few months until the temperatures rise again in April.

Filling Out Adult Coloring Books. There’s something so meditative about them.

Watching Netflix. See also: documentaries (especially if they’re about NASA or nature), goofy comedies like Fuller House, and ghost stories.

Catching Up on My To-Read List. There are so many books out there I’ve been meaning to read. Let’s see how many of them I can actually finish before the weather warms up.

Studying Spanish. Enough said there. Learning a new language is so good for your brain, and it gives you a lot of sympathy for people who are learning English as their second language, too!

Braving the Cold. I do occasionally enjoy going out in the cold and watching the snow fall for a little while. It makes me grateful for the warm, indoor places where I spend most of my time.

How about all of you?

 

 

Holiday Topics I Wish More People Would Blog About

Can you believe it’s November already? It feels like January ended last month, and yet here we are moving quickly into the 2018 holiday season.

As someone who doesn’t observe any winter holidays other than nodding slightly in the direction of the winter solstice since it means the days will soon be filled with more light, this might seem like a slightly unusual topic choice for me today.

I think there’s something to be said for being aware of the things I’m going to mention today regardless of what you do or don’t celebrate, though.

Trigger warning: while I won’t be going into any details, I will be briefly mentioning issues like abuse and grief in today’s post. (I will also be talking about much happier stuff as well!)

Why The Holidays Are Painful for Some People

To give just a few reasons why someone might find this time of year distressing, some (extended or nuclear) families are:

  • Abusive or neglectful
  • Grieving over the loss of one or more members
  • Separated for financial, medical, career, legal, or political reasons
  • Estranged
  • No longer in existence

When someone is in this situation, it can be difficult to be surrounded by so many images of and references to happy, intact families between now and the end of the year.

In no way am I trying to discourage people who have never experienced this from sharing stories of visiting safe, appropriate, and living relatives.

It makes me happy to see all of the joy in their lives, but I’d also love to see more posts from people who have had to limit or end their relationship with certain relatives for safety reasons, who live far away from their loved ones, who don’t have families, or who will not be doing big familial celebrations for other reasons. These stories are important and need to be told if the bloggers involved in them are willing to share a basic overview of why the holidays aren’t a cheerful time for them.

Chosen Families

On the other hand, not all families are comprised of folks who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption. It is perfectly possible to choose to become a family with people you meet long after you’ve taken your first step or graduated from high school.

As someone who is trying to do this, it would be so interesting to read other people’s accounts of how they assembled theirs.

Navigating Health Problems During the Holidays

My various allergies can sometimes make attending certain functions tricky or even impossible. I’ll often eat before going to certain gatherings to make sure I’m not sitting there with a growling stomach and the inability to eat anything there due to North America’s tendency to toss milk products into so many festive foods.

If someone has a cat, I cannot enter their home for any reason. No, not even if they vacuum really well and banish the cat to their bedroom. It has nothing to do with my opinion of their cleaning skills or cat and everything to do with how difficult it is to get dander out of a couch well enough that I won’t react if I sit on it.

It would be so interesting to me to read other blogger’s stories about how they handled their own health problems or accommodated someone else’s medical needs during the holidays. I’m well-versed in allergies, but I know far less about how other health issues can affect someone’s ability to attend or enjoy an event. It would be helpful to hear what should or should not be done from people who are living with other conditions.

Traditions from Non-American Cultures

One of the coolest things about making friends with so many people who didn’t grow up in rural, (mostly) midwestern portions of United States has been getting to hear stories about all of the traditions that exist in other parts of the world.

Some holidays that are widely celebrated here in North America like Halloween are either totally unknown or barely observed in other places. Likewise, I’ve learned about all sorts of other celebrations that my family didn’t know anything about when I was growing up. These range from major holidays like Diwali to smaller, more regional ones like Saint Nicholas Day.

Creative Gift Ideas

I’d be especially interested in reading posts about gifts that are inexpensive and not a knick-knack.

Those of you who are good at buying, baking, making, or planning personalized, meaningful presents have my admiration. That isn’t an easy thing to do….or at least it’s not for me.

Honestly, the more posts that exist about this, the better. It can be written about for so many different ages and types of interests that the possibilities are truly endless.

Reflections on the Past and Future

What were the highlights of the past year for you? What do you wish had turned out differently? What are your hopes and dreams for the new year?

I know that some bloggers aren’t comfortable sharing such personal details of their own lives, and I respect that. If they’re willing to share, I adore getting these backstage peeks into other people’s lives.

Something I struggle with might be effortless for someone else, but they also might find it hard to do something that I’ve always found incredibly easy. There’s something reassuring about seeing examples of how this works while I hope that next year will be better for everyone no matter what this one was like for them.

What topics do you wish more people would blog about during the holiday season?

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Wish People Would Blog About

5 More Things I Wish People Would Blog About

 

Should You Exercise Outdoors in March?

If you live in a part of the world where March and the winter season in general isn’t cold, icy, and snowy, this post may not be helpful for you. (Also, I am a little jealous of your tropical or temperate environments at the moment!)

For everyone else, keep reading. I have some questions for you.

Is it a smart idea to exercise outdoors at this time of the year?

What should fitness enthusiasts keep in mind about working out in slippery conditions and when the weather patterns are shifting rapidly as the season changes from winter to spring?

Let’s dig into these questions as well as other some points that everyone should ponder before deciding whether or not exercising outdoors between the months of December and March is a good decision for them.

Your Gear

The right gear makes all the difference in the world when it’s raining one minute, snowing the next, and everything could and probably will freeze into a slippery mess overnight.

Do your shoes have a strong grip?

How warm is your coat?

Does it rain often enough in your community that waterproof gear is recommended?

How easy would it be for you to add or remove layers of clothing during your workout?

Will any of your sports equipment be damaged if it’s regularly exposed to snow, ice, rain, or freezing temperatures?

One of the many reasons why I don’t exercise outdoors during the winter has to do with the type of gear I have. It’s perfect for the other three seasons, but it doesn’t work so well when the ground is covered in snow or ice and with the windchill it feels like -20C outside.

Sure, I could buy shoes and outerwear that’s suited for these conditions, but this isn’t something I’m prioritizing. Indoor workouts suit me just fine for the time being. When my current gear wears out, I’ll revisit this topic then.

Your Current Health and Fitness Levels

I didn’t want this post to make any assumptions about the health and fitness levels of the people reading this post. Several of my friends are living with chronic physical health problems that limit what they’re able to do when they exercise no matter where they are or what season it is. This is even more true for them when there’s an increased danger of slipping on icy surfaces or tripping over piles of snow.

Even as someone who is able-bodied and in pretty good shape overall, I’m still extra cautious on slippery paths due to how many times I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists in the past. My body is strangely good at injuring itself in that way, so I try to avoid hurting myself yet again when I’m outside and the ground is slick.

Your Goals

The kinds of questions you’ll need to ask yourself for this section are going to vary quite a bit based on your interests and current physical abilities. So much depends on what kinds of exercise you’re doing and how much progress you’re hoping to make while the season changes from winter to spring.

All of the types of exercise I do can easily be done indoors, and many of them honestly work much better under those conditions given the part of the world I live in. For example, weightlifting outdoors on a snowy or rainy day honestly isn’t something I ever want to try!

In no way are my fitness goals hampered by indoor workouts. If anything, July and August is the time of the year when I tend to slack off a little in this department due to how muggy it is then and how much I dislike working up a sweat when the hot weather already has me perspiring.

This isn’t true for every sport, activity, or goal, though.

Your Neighbourhood

There are certain practical questions that should be asked before deciding whether exercising outdoors is a smart decision in the area where you live.

How often and how well are the roads shovelled and salted in your community? If you’re a cyclist, how safe would it be for you to ride on them after a big storm?

If there are sidewalks in your neighbourhood, how often and how well are they shovelled and salted? Is there truly enough space for joggers and pedestrians alike there?

Imagine you fell and broke a bone or sprained an ankle while working out. How long would it be before someone noticed that you needed assistance and came to help you?

What have you seen other fitness enthusiasts doing? If other people are exercising outdoors at this time of the year, that’s a good sign.

The sidewalks where I live are sometimes half-covered by mounds of snow that were ploughed off of the road.  At other times our sidewalks do have plenty of space on them to accommodate everyone, but after big storms there really is only enough room for a single-file line of walkers going each direction.

There are people here in Toronto who go out for a jog at all times of the year, but they’re pretty selective about where they go for their runs. I see many more of them once all of the ice has melted away for the year.

Your Personal Preferences

As you may have already guessed, this is something that ultimately boils down to personal preference once all of the practical and safety considerations have been taken into account.

I’m not someone who finds outdoor exercise all that enjoyable, so I’d much rather wait until spring has officially arrived and the sidewalks are free of ankle-spraining debris before I change how and where I workout.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you love exercising outside, good for you! Come tell me why and how it works for you in the comment section of this post.

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 a wide variety of reasons. Winter is my least-favourite season of the year, but it does become slightly more appealing when I think about experiencing it in places that are nothing at all like Toronto.

Narnia as It Was During the End of The Long Winter

From C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I spent four years of my childhood in Laramie, Wyoming, so C.S. Lewis’ descriptions of a world where it was always winter actually sounded kind of familiar to me.

We could experience snow there at any point between September and May. Even the brief Wyoming summers were much colder than the ones I experienced later on in life when my family moved back to the midwest.

Some kids might have been frightened by the idea of a winter that never ended. I liked the long, snowy winters of my childhood, though, and wasn’t particularly bothered by the idea of them lasting forever. (Although, now that I’m an adult, I feel very differently about this topic!)

One of the nice things about the reign of Jadis, the White Witch who cursed the land with everlasting winter, was how resourceful the creatures who lived there learned to become. The book never exactly described how they managed to find enough food to survive for so many generations in the bitter cold, so I’m going to have to assume that both magic and luck were involved.

My favourite scene in this book was the one where Lucy and Susan noticed the first sign that The Long Winter was coming to an end. I won’t give it away for anyone out there who hasn’t read this story yet, but it was a very fitting twist on what many people consider to be the best part of this season.

Alaska as It Was in 1920

From Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.

Jack and Mabel, the main characters in this tale, had no idea what was happening when they first caught glimpses of a child running around in the Alaskan wilderness alone in the dead of winter.

This is the kind of story that can’t be pinned down to any one genre, and that’s one of the many reasons why I love it so much.

Is it a fantasy tale about a childless couple whose overwhelming desire to be parents magically summoned a daughter for them?

Are the main characters’ sometimes-bizarre interactions with their daughter a metaphor for how unresolved grief can pop up in all kinds of unexpected ways over the years?

Did Jack and Mabel meet a real abandoned child who had somehow figured out how to survive in a fiercely cold and unforgiving environment before they took her in?

The winter weather in Alaska could easily be used to support any of these theories. It could almost be considered a character in and of itself because of how influential it was on how the plot unfolded. While I wouldn’t want to experience that time and place for more than a few minutes, I am curious to know what it would feel like to live in a small, isolated cabin in the middle of a gigantic Alaskan forest during one of their many blizzards.

Jack and Mabel must have yearned for spring unbearably by this time of the year.

I have a very strong opinion about how this book should be interpreted based on the clues provided by the weather, the characters, and the circumstances under which the child is found, but I won’t share it publicly to avoid giving anyone spoilers for the ending.

Europe as It Was 30,000 Years Ago

From Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters.

The Mamutoi were the first band of humans that Ayla, a human girl who was raised by Neanderthals, had ever met.

Other than the joy of seeing a herd of mammoths in person, by far the most appealing part of this book to me was how closely-knit the Mamutoi were. The climate they lived in was far too cold to allow for much outdoor time during the winter at all, so this tribe spent those months indoors working on small projects and celebrating various festivals.

The best scenes in this book showed what it was like for roughly twenty adults and children to live in a cramped space together for months on end. Yes, there were times when the introvert in me wondered if anyone ever went outside for the express purpose of having a few moments of pure silence, but there were many other times when I saw the benefits of this kind of living arrangement.

For example, the children in this tribe were doted on by everyone. They knew who their parents were, but they also all felt perfectly comfortable going to any adult for food, comfort, entertainment, or to learn new skills.

Chores like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of people who were too sick, injured, or elderly to do certain things for themselves were also shared pretty evenly. Given how lonely Ayla had been earlier in her life, this doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend a winter at all.

What winter worlds from your favourite stories do you wish you could visit?

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