Winter Survival Skills for Sun-Loving Softies

All winter-lovers are alike—but each person who is unhappy during winter is unhappy in their own way. 

Eugene, OR ice storm in 2016. It made the trees look gorgeous—as if they were encased in glass—but as the boughs broke under the weight onto power lines, it sounded like bombs were going off.

I’m not built to withstand extended periods of cold darkness. I grew up in Laguna Beach, where temperatures and daylight hours varied little throughout the year. Even in winter, beach days were abundant and apart from the gossamer marine layer, the sun kissed everything in its wake throughout the year. 

In 2016, however, I fell hard for an artistic city that didn’t have an endless summer. Eugene, Oregon, just west of the Cascade Mountains, welcomed us our first year with ice storms, unplowed roads, and power outages. Although the snow we receive is adorable by midwestern standards, the perennial gloom late October through April got under my skin. 

The drumroll toward the holidays isn’t bad—everyone is in high spirits despite the unfriendly chill and unending rain. But now that we’re sweeping up the New Years’ confetti, the realization sets in: we still have several more months of cold rain and wind before the tulips and fruiting trees burst into bloom.

Since I moved to Oregon, this time of year has always been rough for me. People retreat indoors and the sun rarely shines. I realize a little glacial rain and gloom would constitute a mild winter for many Americans, but my background made me cold-averse. I needed to develop a system that made me look forward to these days.

Like many others, I admire the Danes and read up on “hygge”—their sense of coziness, familiarity, and togetherness, embodied in a warm pair of socks or candlelit dinner of hearty stew. I also took stock of my cute coats and indoor hobbies (reading, writing, painting), hoping to unlock a routine. This winter has been much easier than in years past, helped in part by a few axioms and tricks I’ve picked up over my years in my new (often sun-starved) home:

There is no bad weather—just insufficient dress. My friend Justin shared that this is similar to a Norwegian proverb—and it’s spot on. It took me a while for me to find the right coat and hat for icy, angled rain (among other conditions), but once I did, winter could no longer keep me inside. I was never much of a clothes horse growing up—I lived in my more stylish friend Alexis’ hand-me-downs for most of my 20s—but having well-made Patagonia and Pendleton jackets has saved my ass. I even found some of them second-hand at Plato’s Closet, so there’s no need to break the bank. 

Candles slay the gloom. There’s something primordial about our love of a blaze. Who among my readers hasn’t been captivated by a bonfire? I have candles all over our living room and bedroom and I only light them when it’s cold. This simple ritual—inspired in part by my readings on hygge—lifts my spirits every time. 

Invest time in making your space welcoming to you. Whether you’re a garage sale aficionado or a modern minimalist, take pride in where you live since you spend so much time there. It will make it that much easier on the day you don’t feel like facing the blizzard. 

Slate specific winter hobbies and events. Every Tuesday, I play indoor volleyball with an awesome group of girls. I typically read 25 percent of my books for the year in January and finish at least two acrylic canvasses. My partner and I also love hosting parties. I did none of these things (apart from reading) when I first moved to Oregon—and I suffered for it. Growing up in southern California, I’d never divided my interests into seasons, recognizing that I can foster different parts of myself depending on the time of year. Recognizing this fact—likely obvious to people who didn’t grow up in sunny beach cities—catapulted my winter serotonin to new highs.

Am I soft? Absolutely. But if there’s a desert-dweller out there who needs to relocate to Minneapolis, they will be grateful for my superficial insights.

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