Column: Looking for peace and warmth in the cold days of winter

Jimmy Frost

Ed. — This originally ran in the Sunday, Dec. 13, print edition.


VIRGINIA BEACH — When the days of winter near, the solar powered lights in the gardens don’t last as long as they did a few weeks earlier. All of the lights have faded out when I come downstairs before dawn. The sun is further south in the sky, and the days are shorter.

The sun also rises a little later so, when I sit and watch the morning news, the darkened sky outside my back door slowly starts to reveal the outline of tree line on the next street. First it is black, then fading to dark grey, then dark blue and, finally, the familiar blue of the autumn sky.

I only hope it isn’t too cold when I head out the door. As I get older, the cold hits a little harder than it once did, and my drive to work now is so brief that my car’s heater never fully warms. My toes feel it first. They’re closer to the exterior skin of the car.

It’s disappointing when the majority of my lawn tools and machines go from being useful implements to inconvenient obstacles for the next few months. There’s no way to know for sure if we will have a short, mild winter or if it will be a long, cold and brutal one with snow, ice and bone-chilling wind. 

The rain is a little easier to forecast, but it’s not by a smartphone app. I pay attention to what my knuckles, knees, back and hips are telling me.

This is certainly the time of year that makes the thought of a hibernating bear seem as though he has the right idea. The best I can settle for is a comfortable chair, a blanket draped across my shoulders to fend off a chill and a warm, purring cat curled up in my lap. 

Preferably, it’s an older cat. They’re not as prone to deciding for reasons known only to them to bolt somewhere in the house, using their claws in my flesh to launch their sprint. 

Meanwhile, in an odd twist of role-reversal, the television that once held my attention has begun watching me instead. Since it is a newer “smart” model, occasionally I’ll wake to see the program I’ve long forgotten has long ended and a message is on the screen asking if I’m still watching.

Or the screen saver runs with a background I didn’t choose displayed because my television felt it was time for the holiday motif.

For the next few months, the smell of fresh-cut grass will be replaced with the crunch of leaves, and the smoke from fireplaces and backyard firepits will fill the air. 

There are many ways to warm yourself but the only two things I have found that can warm you to the bone are a “forever” hot water heater and a good wood fire. The hot water heater will provide a happy holiday to Virginia Natural Gas, Dominion Power and the City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities. A long, hot shower certainly has a price in this town.

And don’t tell anyone on the City Council you enjoy a long, hot shower lest they find a way to add a new additional fee to that indulgence. 

Even the Covid-19 restrictions over the holidays don’t bother me all that much. My family and I usually don’t go out of our way to visit. 

I suppose I know the culprit for the way I am. I grew up in a small house.

You spend the first years of your lives breathing down each other’s necks, and the rest of your life keeping the distance you longed for in your youth.

But the years go by, and the occasional visit and catch-up are important. I get caught up on the latest family happenings, and I tell of the latest antics of the birds and squirrels at the feeders I have in my garden.

Gone are the days of rowdy family get-togethers. These have been replaced by little stories of stress and strife amid the ongoing search. We seek out moments of personal enjoyment of peace and quiet.

We seek out warmth.

I’ve come to appreciate that winter is the perfect counterbalance to long, hot summers spent working, sweating and searching for fun. I’ve opted instead to rediscover the simple enjoyment of peace and quiet and, even as winter arrives, warmth.

The author is a web designer, campaign consultant, photographer and writer who is a lifelong resident of Virginia Beach.

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