In the past year, I learned about the pleasures of winter. It started with a January trip to Amsterdam, arriving in the pre-dawn hours to find the city still and covered in 6 inches of pristine snow. I wore an absurd amount of layers exploring on foot, but for the first time, I found the cold invigorating, and not an obstacle. Cafes were cozier. I followed the locals lead and let a leisurely breakfast bleed on into lunch, reading newspapers and sipping coffee. By the time the trip came to a close, not only had I seen some of the city’s iconic attractions, but I had gotten a feel for how the locals live.
As a child, I dreaded winter. As soon as November arrived, my fingers turned a deep shade of purple and remained frozen, free of circulation, for months. When my father (born in Canada) wanted to hit the slopes each winter, he took my sisters to the mountains and my mom and I fled to the Caribbean. My bag was always heavy with books; I read a book each day of our blissful beach getaways.
This winter, I decided to try and expand upon my embrace of winter’s pleasures, begun during that trip to Amsterdam. This effort was bolstered by two separate elements: 1. the purchase of a new pair of insanely warm snow boots and 2. the fact that I recently moved apartments and am now living in Harlem. A new neighborhood is like a treasure box for a writer. Right on my doorstep there are new (to me) bakeries, cafes, parks, galleries, shops, and seafood shacks.
With all of these new temptations on my door — and a shiny new pair of boots with shearling lining that allow me to plow through the murkiest piles of snow and deepest where’s-the-bottom puddles — the plunging temperatures of January and February just haven’t felt all that bad. I’ve stomped through powdery snow in Morningside Park while kids, off from school, took advantage of the hills to sled. I’ve wandered through Central Park, the Great Hill resembling an ice skating rink after a night of rain that froze with the next day’s frigid temperatures. With the trees bare, bird watching beckons in the park, as hawks soar above and cardinals are bright bursts of color against the snow where they hop along pecking for seed left by locals.
Winter is for grilled cheese and tomato soup. For early morning coffee and fluffy robes and even fluffier sweaters. It is for wandering around the Met, warming up with paintings of lazy summer days. Winter is for roasting short ribs, for going to a movie and then getting to bed early, for tackling the pile of books at the bed side. For red wine and getting snowed in, for surprise days off work and a crisp cold that I’ve learned, can feel good, especially when walking in a new neighborhood, on the sunny side of the street.