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Greek-American Stories: Ode to Ol’ Man Winter

The weather outside is frightful! But what comes with it is delightful. Ok, so I changed the words to the song a little. But, we have to look at the good side, too. Winter offers an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate, to slow down and embrace the early darkness to find the light within us. Our internal clock stands still on those snowy days when we can gaze out the window at the white wonderland, if those flakes will ever decide to fall in our neighborhood, finally, and we can sit before a fire place or a sunny window and ponder gratefully that we have heat, food, and hope.

I know we all have schedules to keep, work to do, and other endless responsibilities, but we need the time to recoup from the past year that was really not a favorite to many of us in any way: economically, politically, or socially. But, it’s the time when holidays are before us – more than there are in summer. Looking forward to a brand new year is like being a kid and wondering what’s inside the colorfully wrapped box under the tree.

My main thoughts, however, are with the stray animals who can only suffer when the snow falls and the temperature hits 10 degrees, making it hard to make their way towards the food I always leave out every night. I haven’t seen the opossum or the pair of skunks, either. And, I wonder if they hibernate. I do see the same two stray cats; one, a beautiful, very shy, entirely black furred cat and the other one, striped and a little cautious with me even after all the years. I leave a plate of cat food or leftovers and water in two bowls that are always warm due to being wired to an electric plug. Today, it was less than10 degrees and I looked out and saw that the food was gone.

Here, we bond by complaining about winter. In a country where winter is almost endless, like in Norway, it is viewed as something to enjoy, not endured. Seasonal depression is rare there. People in Greece endure winter more easily because they’re used to a shorter winter season and since summer is a long season the entire country thrives, plans, and enjoys all kinds of summer activity. Here, around my neighborhood, neighbors walk fast and without pausing to speak briefly, will show some good manners and say, “God! Can it get any colder? Where’s good ol’ summer?”

More time to rest is not only acceptable but necessary. Going at a slower pace is something your body and mind will thank you for. What a perfect time to read a book, call someone you haven’t spoken to for a long while, make that recipe you’ve always wanted to try, give more attention to the changes you’ve always wanted to make in your house or apartment.

Consciously embracing winter’s slower pace can be so mind settling. We’d appreciate winter more if we can think about summer’s work load in the garden, mosquitoes and ants, sweating when doing the regular household chores, wondering why the air conditioner doesn’t cool the place faster. Admit that we have less appetite or energy for planning hardy meals.

I find that people have less patience in the summer. The post man mutters, ‘Hi’, and turns away. At other times he’d stop to talk about something he’d seen in another neighborhood, or pause to tell me and my neighbor about his kid’s athletic achievements. The air conditioner is on full blast in restaurants, theaters, homes, and all stores until we are met with a blast of HOT leaving the place. And, getting into the car, we turn on the AC, wait, and even that doesn’t put a cheerful expression on anybody. Then, those same neighbors walk by now say, “God! It’s so damn hot! Where’s good ol’ winter?”

Poor ol’ man winter is thousands of years old and is unappreciated by a lot of people except for winter sports enthusiasts: skiers, ice skaters, and kids with sleds. But, ol’ Mother Nature is greeted like royalty by almost everyone. I guess we’re never satisfied.

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