By Julie Reardon
THE BEAUTY OF WINTER
So my challenge this year is to seek out and embrace positive reasons to enjoy the season, instead of my usual funk and tendency to dwell on the worst of this time of year. Initially what came to mind were little things, such as the smell of smoke from fireplaces and woodstoves, flannel sheets and pajamas, and the pristine beauty of the first snow. But, we don’t have a wood stove and our fireplace has gas logs. And that first, pretty light snow? Usually happens in late fall, not winter. New fallen snow is lovely, especially when you see it in photos and not mounded up outside your door.
The mountain views Fauquier County and surrounds are known to open up when all the leaves are off the trees. Sometimes you can see distant Blue Ridge vistas that are hidden behind the canopy of tree leaves, and get a better look at many area historic homes and farms obscured by acres of trees most of the year, with the added benefit of less traffic on the prettier roads. Some of the pretty winter views remind me of good black and white photography since the palate is so muted.
While my dogs don’t care about the weather, I do, so I live vicariously through friends that absolutely love winter waterfowling. For most, it’s their favorite time to hunt birds. Waterfowlers are a hearty bunch and winter storm fronts that send the rest of us hurrying to our fireplaces, are their signal that ducks and geese are on the move. Wind and weather stir up the ducks and geese, and many migratory species don’t even arrive in Virginia until January. Like waterfowl, deer and small game become more wary late in the season, but this is when skill trumps luck, so the successful hunter truly has something to be proud of.
By February though, most hunt seasons are finished so it’s a little harder to find reasons to like the season. Race horse training is in full swing for the early season point to points as well as area flat tracks. For those without access to a training track like many steeplechase trainers and foxhunters, snowy fields and gravel roads are just some of the creative ways to get or keep their horses fit. Pleasure horse and farm animal chores fall into the drudgery column. Keeping livestock fed and, especially watered, has to happen every day, whether you feel like it or not. Scooping poop can be an exercise in chiseling and prying frozen mounds off the ground, and muscling a frozen hose into the house to thaw is just a nasty, dirty job.
I love the look of nice gloves. But I’m not one who uses gloves much, except when it’s bitterly cold. Some people wear them year-round, for every chore, from washing dishes, to house cleaning, to gardening. I’m not one of those. I wish I liked wearing them better, my hands would probably look nicer too, but they seem to interfere with every chore. It’s a toss-up between losing that dexterity to frozen fingers or trying to do simple things like connect hoses with gloves on. I’m in the camp of finding gloves awkward to work in and easy to lose. My real favorite thing about winter, and the solstice December 21, is that the days gradually get longer even if the thermometer doesn’t follow suit for a few months.