Winter: How to Thrive not Just Survive

It’s not uncommon for someone to say to me something to the effect of, “Dude, how do you get through winter up here?” The comment might come from people who have recently relocated here, deceived into thinking it’s Fourth of July weekend 52 weeks a year. Or it might come from people who have lived here for years.

I understand the question, but I also understand the solution, and lucky for you, I’m going to share it in a metaphor. This is a metaphor that I made up myself and whenever I begin to say it at home, my family pretty much in unison tells me to shut up. But I like it, so here goes.

Winter is like a powerful river. When you are in it, if you try to fight the current you will quickly tire, become overwhelmed and drown. If, on the other hand, you swim with the current, you float downstream, travel to cool places and arrive at the banks happy and refreshed and feeling dynamite. So, moral of the story: winter, go with the flow.

Feel free to ridicule this metaphor in its simplicity and weirdness, but don’t ridicule its message because it is central to thriving not just surviving winter. And you want to thrive, right?

So, in real life, what this means is you have to get outside at least a half an hour a day (see my previous post: It’s Never as Bad Outside as It Looks). You get the clothes on, you get the blood moving, you breathe the air, you elevate the mood. And most important, you come back having lost the sense that winter is oppressive and overpowering and you are a weak and feeble being at the mercy of cold and icy snow. That is the opposite of thriving.

Fact is, for me winter is when I often feel most alive and have many of my year’s peak moments. These moments tend to happen on XC skis or snowshoes, with a friend or with my pooch. You obviously need to figure your own way to get outside. Know that if this is a new thing for you, the early stages will be a pain in the keister. You’ll have to round up some sort of gear, you’ll feel uncomfortable with learning something new, you’ll think, “I’m just not a winter person.” But this is all worth working through as you march toward the promised land: thriving in winter, having peak moments of alive-ness and being happy.

So there ya go. Winter, go with the flow. Thrive not just survive.

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Article Comments

6 thoughts on “Winter: How to Thrive not Just Survive”

  1. I’m with you, Jeff. In a moment of weakness (or strength) a few years ago, my husband and I decided this very thing. Stop fighting winter in a state that has so much of it. As fate would have it, that very weekend in our newspaper was an article about learning to snowshoe from the good people at Sleeping Bear Dunes! For free! And they provide the equipment! No excuses left, we ventured North and have been snowshoeing ever since. It’s easy, inexpensive and keeps you warm.

  2. Hi Jeff. Hope you don’t mind another one of my usual “great-story-Jeff” comments. Well here goes…. Great story, Jeff! 🙂 I like your writing style and the underlying message. It’s kinda like the lemons vs. lemonade question. Wishing away the lemons or the winter or the whatever – is wishing away yet another day of incredible beauty (and in this case up north) that can never be relived. Ridicule…..absolutely not. After all – I wrote about a moving rainbow! Have a good weekend.

  3. I totally agree with your winter mantra. One prime motivation for our move “up north” was MORE winter. We love all the outdoor winter activities. Just need the right gear as you stated. My husband and I are owners and innkeepers of the Korner Kottage B&B in Suttons Bay. We encourage our “summer time” fans to give winter a try. Most our slow to yield, but once they succumb …they often discover the magic. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

    Keep your stories coming. I so enjoy your style and ease of the words. By the way, great icy weather conditions this morning…still gettin out there though. Nestle Quik, our portuguese water dog doesn’t mind at all. Although she just “barely” endures the indignity of our dressing her in coat and boots when the weather is particularly wintery (like this morning). She still gets us “out there”!

  4. Good point: Dogs REALLY love owners who take them out in snow (well, except our miniature dachshund who just has inadequate clearance). And who doesn’t want their dog to look at them and think: you are such a great person.

  5. Sometimes, when it’s just too inconvenient to strap on snowshoes or skiis, or I want to take my two small dogs for a walk and we’re hemmed in by all the deep snow I drive to one of the nearly deserted country roads up here south of the Sault. There the dogs can run free and I can run or walk and we don’t sink into snow up to our keisters. I do love the winter then!

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