COLUMN: Winter Blues Hues

I wrote a column roughly a dozen years ago about how much I disliked winter. Needless to say, it wasn’t the type of column to spur gracious emails, kind phone calls or heartfelt letters.

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BY MARK WALLACE MAGUIRE

I suppose for those who do like winter, it was an easy stab at a ready-made target and for those who dislike winter it was a statement of the obvious.

Since then, I’ve worked to refocus and recalibrate my thoughts on winter. The bottom line is, it is here. We’re living in it and unless you possess unlimited funds to escape south for three months, we all have to cope with the sullen skies, faded grass and short, sun-dulled days. So, instead of sinking into the seasonal mire, here are a few thoughts on the things I have learned to love and embrace about the season.

1. Sunsets: Poets and paupers alike can wax lyrically about a sunset over an ocean, but if you truly want to see the best sunsets, winter in The South is the prime setting. The air is crisp and clear and visibility is not hampered by humidity. The trees are naked, their limbs stripped bare providing a larger vista of the sky. And there is something as well that I can’t put my finger on – perhaps something in the clouds or angle of the sun striking the planet this time of year – that produces some dramatic closes to the end of every day. Summer evenings may trump winter with its long, languid never-ending dusk, but as far as short beautiful burst, winter is the champ.

2. Lunchtime strolls: If you see a large, strange man wearing a tie, hat and tennis shoes tramping through one of Cobb’s parks at lunch, it is probably me. I relish a winter walk at lunch. A walk is good for stress, to clear the mind, for health and – as with this column – for creating new ideas for the magazine. As much as I enjoy stretching my legs for a bit mid-day in the open air, it is not a practice one can engage in year-round. The brutal humidity of spring or summer doesn’t provide a conducive setting for such activities and one is generally confined to the gym or the desk. But winter afternoons are great for getting out. Bundle up. Get the blood flowing. And, yeah, that rarity called sunshine doesn’t hurt the serotonin level either.

3. A book, a fire and a cat: My wife gives me a hard time on occasion as many things I said I would never do in life, I now do. I said I would never get married, never own a house, never have kids, own a pet and so forth. Now, I find few things as sublime in life as sitting on the couch in front of a fire, a cat on my lap, a son at my side and a book in my hand. And, of course, there is one time you can really do that: Winter.

4. Yard projects: Ah, the grass and shrubs are in hibernation. The leaves have hopefully been all raked and are disintegrating into a wonderful mulch for the spring. Now is the time to do that fancy pruning or build a rock wall. Or, if you desire, to simply look at the yard and give thanks that you aren’t out in the heat working in it. The last few years I lean toward the latter though I hope to correct that this January with a handful of projects that are overdue.

5. Soups and stews: My talents in the kitchen continue to decimate each year the longer I am married. However, I can still whip up a great stew or batch of soup. If my wife bakes some homemade bread, matching the two together is a sublime way to wrap up a cold day outdoors. Summers are prime time for the grill, but you can’t beat a hearty stew in the winter. Stews are also great for leftovers and giving mama a night off from the kitchen.

Here’s to wishing you the best this season.

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