I hate winter.
Throughout the fall, my ski friends puff their breath into the cold air, hoping to see wisps of white. They whoop over the first snowy run, prematurely wax their skis (and mine), pull out their woolly layers and dust off their down jackets. They buy early-bird ski passes and new socks, scheduling weekends at wood-fired cabins and in the backcountry with thermoses. Meanwhile, I soak up every active moment outside that I’m not shivering, stuffing my hydration hose down my armpit to thaw, breaking my teeth on frozen granola bars and spending my ice cream money on Hot Shots.
Last winter, over a coffee and perhaps a bit too much Bailey’s, my mom and I made a list of the Top 10 Worst Things About Winter. It included what you’d imagine: cold, darkness, seasonal weight gain, Netflix addition, antisocial behavior, icy streets, slippery sidewalks, car-scraping and block heaters. We got a bit more imaginative, too: no local, seasonal produce (hello, imported grapefruits and watery hot house cucumbers), the inability to sit on a patio, and the high cost of vitamin D supplements. Not wanting to be full-on winter Debbie Downers, we tried to think of some positives (Christmas lights? A new friendship with the local librarian? Extra time to be introverted?), but we didn’t get much past three or four.
I’m not sure when my loathing of winter began. I grew up in Edmonton, not thinking twice about wearing mis-matched mitts and my dad’s old toque from the catch-all in our front entryway, waiting at the bus stop in all get-up just to keep warm, freezing my eyelashes shut on toboggan runs, having extra pairs of Sorels in the car and the house and my locker at school, and saving money on the cheap entertainment of skating in my friends’ frozen backyards. Winter was a way of life, not something to be questioned.
Until I moved to Vancouver. Vancouverites love to address folks from any other part of Canada with exactly this line: “You’re from <<any Canadian city other than Vancouver>>?!? How could you ever live there?!?” It was in Vancouver that I learned that Edmonton was cold. And I grew to hate winter, pretending instead that I loved a soaking run in my Gore-tex jacket (and, for that matter, Gore-tex pants, shoes, gloves, socks, and headband) or that the donning of trendy Hunter gumboots was somehow preferable to tugging on my beefy Sorels.
Brief aside: I’ll save rain and seasonal affective disorder for another blog post about Vancouver.
Now that I live in Kelowna, I live in the in-between-land of winter-but-not-quite-winter, where we have snow and cold days and pervasive cloudiness, but enough warm, melty days that we resent anything below minus two and start crying for spring in early March when it doesn’t come until June. In Kelowna, as the days get shorter throughout the fall, I feel the dread of winter, of the Top Ten.
But this fall, I read an article about the Norwegian word koselig, which is how our friends in Europe's northern climes cope with winter. Koselig (from what I understand, never – lamentably – having ever been to Norway) captures all things cozy, on a much deeper level than we understand coziness here in Canada. It evokes good conversation and candles and home décor, friendship and comfort and fine spirits (in all forms of the word). A Norwegian blogger defined it more as comfort than as coziness: “basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting.” Thinking my country was lacking somehow in the winter survival department (how, after all, could I live in Kelowna – much less Edmonton, like my mom), I decided to embrace koselig.
My first fall in Kelowna, in a new job that no longer required I spend October and November gallivanting around Canada, I dove into koselig whole hog. I became obsessed with holiday décor, even Pinteresting candles and pillows and lights for the first time (don’t judge). My obsession even extended to a lengthy saga of getting a black, metal, pointy (read: razor sharp), 4-foot star through the Toronto airport to decorate my home (success!). I’ve experimented with candles and drinking chocolates, raclette cheeses and woollen socks, Goodreads and big batch soups, brought homemade snacks to ski shacks, pretended to love skiing until I truly began to love it, worn earmuffs on the trails, and ooh’d and ahh’d over opening our homemade canned goods from the fall. I’ve had mochas – long, toasty mochas – with friends, shared drinks and shared life, with time to look people in the eye while we chatted. Koselig.
Is it working?
Well, the days are already getting longer (how'd that happen so fast?). I flee my office at 4:30, headlamp in hand, for the running or ski trails, followed by some leftover soup. And we’re planning a trip to Montreal in February.
Montreal? How could anybody ever live there?