Winter has a soul. Every northerner knows this. It blows in on a whim, somehow always unexpected, and blankets the world in white. The rivers groan under ice, and the northern lights ripple over midnight-silent cities. Hoar frost grows crystalline on every naked branch and makes the world into a dreamscape. The air turns hungry, and nips at fingers like a stray dog.
Winter is snowshoeing in an evergreen forest, grand haunted hotels, steaming hot springs. It’s blue ice and sidewalk salt. It’s a cheeky glug of Baileys in my morning coffee. It’s my mother’s meticulously styled tree, and the dogs propped up in their own seats at the table on Christmas morning. It’s my husband proposing to me in a mountain cave as snowflakes melt on my cheeks. When you spend five months of the year in winter, it starts to become a part of you.
I love autumn, it’s true. But winter is in my bones. Winter is home.
Winter threads are my favourite, all those rich, sensual textures – I want to bury myself in endless layers of cozy cashmere, lace, faux fur, silk, wool, and velvet. Soft socks that reach all the way to the top of my thighs, cable-knit sweaters over lacy bralettes and silky slips, delicate jewelry cool against my skin, blanket scarves that double as shawls. Hunter boots and soft leather gloves. Messy hair tucked under knitted toques. Gold and green and black, always, always black.
Three words – Andrew’s mom’s shortbread. She makes these perfect little medallions and pops them in the freezer, and they just melt away into buttery goodness in your mouth. Fondue and champagne at the Grizzly House in Banff, which according to local legend, used to be a swinger’s bar. Roasted beets with oranges, melty brie with blackberry preserves, hot buttered rum in a thermos. It’s all good.
As anyone in my life will tell you, I firmly believe that jazz is winter music. Anything Miles Davis, Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Nina Simone and Billie Holliday. Bing Crosby’s A Merry Christmas. This is also the time of year that I let myself indulge in some Loreena McKennitt – she’s got a great Christmas album by the name of A Midwinter Night’s Dream, and I find her warm, spirited, slightly over-the-top vocals the perfect companion for a chilly evening.
Winter is the time of year that my beloved mountain towns come alive with glittering lights and wide-eyed tourists. I love skating at Lake Louise, and gathering round the bonfire to warm up afterwards with a thermos of spiked apple cider. The feeling of snow landing on my shoulders while I’m submerged in a hot spring is one of the most sensual experiences on earth. Johnston Canyon, with its frozen waterfalls, is an otherworldly and gorgeous winter hike.
Once in my life, just once, I want to lay naked on a vintage fur rug in front of a giant stone fireplace, with snow falling outside, as the ghost of Vince Guaraldi himself returns from the grave to give me a spectral serenade on the old grand piano across the room. Alas, as the Fates have not yet seen fit to smile upon me, I’ll be watching Love Actually, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, aaaaand the entire Santa Clause trilogy. I always try to catch A Christmas Carol at Theatre Calgary, and somehow I got roped into caroling with a few lovely friends that I play music with.
You spend so much more time inside in the winter, so I’ve always found it a great time to give your spaces a nice, deep clean. Get rid of everything that you don’t find useful or beautiful – donate the good-quality stuff, of course. In winter, the house gets a fresh influx of candles, fairy lights, extra blankets and pillows, and cedar and pine garlands. Garlands everywhere. Seriously, my apartment smells amazing.
Autumn was a time to let things go, and now winter’s our time to rest and rejuvenate. To start building things back up, to plant seeds and make plans. Who do you want to be this time next year? What do you want to achieve? What do you want your life to feel like? These long, dark nights are ideal for a bit of soul-searching.