This is a season of ritual for northerners. Over centuries of moving through four distinct seasons we have distilled techniques for coping with a long frozen winter that are as diverse as the people who endure them.
Regardless of the approach, we are bound by nature at this time of year. Whether you are curled up on the couch with a good book, an endless supply of yarn and enough tea to outlast the winter or attaching various contraptions to your feet and braving the elements in the name of a good time.
The very old are wary of the damage that a slip on the ice can do to their aging bones. The very young tuck their faces into your chest and brace from the cold.
From the time I was four years old, my father and my grandfather and my uncles would journey into the wilds of Maine, waking me well before sunrise, to climb on snowmobiles and travel through the woods out across the frozen lakes and rivers. In search of big fish and a little fun, they taught me that the cold was not an annoyance nor a luxury. It was just...cold. Like heat or mosquitoes or the breeze. If you're cold, stand by the fire. If you're hot, take off your coat. When you've caught enough fish for dinner, go home and eat. Being four, I appreciated and understood these rules. I felt safe on that ice because they told me I was safe.
In elementary school we'd head to the local sliding hangout, "Killers' Hump", and stay until darkness forced us home for dinner. I still remember the feeling of warmth I'd get seeing the lights on in our house and smoke rising from the chimney. My mom bustling around the kitchen.
I remember these times as we open the jars of food we worked so hard to save from the fall harvest. We bring in the sticks of wood that have been stacked for months. Shoveling out after a big snow. Now, it is our time to provide those simple comforts. To let our children know that, no matter how cold that wind is blowing outside, at home the fire is burning.