Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Far Beneath the Bitter Snow by Grace Burrowes

This time of year can be daunting. The weather is difficult in many places, the holiday bills have arrived, nights are long and cold, and taxes will be due soon for a year that flew by for many of us. In the Canadian provinces, mid-winter is so challenging that provincial holidays have been established, days to have fun, hang with family, and catch up on rest.
Unlike a Canadian province, however, I have no means of declaring an extra holiday. When I’m due in court, in court I shall be. When I have a writing deadline, I will make every effort to meet it. And yet, I can get down, mopey, and blah. January in northern climes is a looooong month.
I’m starting to get the hang of January, though. Good books are part of the solution, domestic projects can help too. If I can’t control the weather, I can at least control the dust bunnies under my sofa. I also make it a priority to get OUTSIDE as early in the day as possible, even if it’s only to ramble around the yard while the dog waters the bushes. Something in me craves natural light this time of year more than most.
I try to focus on what’s good about winter: No bugs! Lots of holidays! The weeds don’t grow! Snow is so pretty coming down! The leaves are off the trees so the inside of my house has more light in winter than in summer. It’s quiet—the neighbor’s roosters aren’t making a racket at 3 am.
All of which is lovely, though it falls short of curing the winter blahs. Road trips are not a good idea this time of year—those chain-up laws exist for reasons—and I have no family nearby.
I’m thrown back on the coping mechanism that has always worked best for me: My imagination. Rather than dreaming up yet still more heroes and heroines to preoccupy me, this is the time of year I look for a Big Trip, something full of cool places to see, and cool things to do within my budget.
Chatsworth, anybody? Longwood Gardens? Waterloo? The festival season in Edinburgh? Visit my nephew in Sweden? Lavender farms on the Olympic Peninsula?
I will never get to most of those places, but dreaming about them makes a long, cold winter a less difficult proposition. Travel isn’t for everybody, of course. For my sister, a new quilting project brings some springtime into her sewing room. For my gardening buddy, planning the year’s annual beds is a winter pleasure.
What about you? How do you dream your way through the long, dark winter? Or do you love winter, and find summer is the time you must be patient and creative?
To one commenter below, I’ll send a $25 Amazon gift card.


  1. Lovely blog, Grace. Alas I'm not a fan of winter--at all, well except for the way the air smells so clean after it if it has been scrubbed. Hard to describe, fresh, maybe?

    The hardest part for me is when it snows enough to cover the skylight in our livingroom....when that's dark I'm apparently quite crabby. LOL!

    I'm on deadline right now, so my brain's preoccupied...thanks for the side-trip :)

  2. The saying in Oklahoma is, "If you don't like the weather, stick around; it will change in twenty minutes."
    I do get antsy after the new year comes in because I start thinking of spring which is my all time favorite season. Right now, like C.H., I'm working on a couple of deadlines so maybe that will keep me busy until spring gets here.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am a winter baby and love winter! However, I do not like it to get very cold. I have lived in Alaska most of my life and I always looked forward to snow then remembered that it brings extreme cold. I am currently living in South Carolina thanks to my hubby and the Army and I miss snow! Then again, on the bright side, less bugs, less allergies, less humidity, still plenty of sunshine and no extreme cold! :)

  4. I love Spring when everything is coming up fresh and new. I use winter as a time to stretch my cooking creativity and make hearty stews ans soups that sound interesting. The early darnkess in winter provides for less distractions for me and I can get more work done. springtime I am alwasy listening to the birds!

  5. I am not a fan of winter and sort of suffer from SAD. I try not to hibernate too much. I dream of Bora Bora and if it is going to be cold, Russia. I just want to travel somewhere....

    We have only had a little snow so far in Boston but it is still around and looking brown. Totally brings my mood down.

  6. I live in Florida, so most of our winter is like the Northern states Spring. I love winter and just hate Summer. It is just too hot here in Florida in the summer time.In July and August there isn't much that will get me outside. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Enjoyed this Grace. We don't have a lot of snow over here across the pond but i hate it with a vengance. I look for good books and dream of summer holidays in exotic places and historical places to visit in the summer months.

  8. I am in South Florida now, so our winters are very comfortable. However, I do remember the FUN of the first real snow fall, shoveling the sidewalk and driveway, and the ever present smell of wet and dripping woolen clothes thrown over the radiators to dry. I enjoyed the changes of season and especially the winters in Pennsylvania. Of course, I was much....MUCH younger then.

  9. I think I'm part lizard. I hate the cold!! Snow is awesome, when it is snow, and not ice. Texan here lol

  10. Hi

    I live in Idaho and today I am looking out on a snowy day. I have made my peace with winter and enjoy snow skiing (however prefer a sunny day when skiing) so will tolerate it awhile longer. I do get tired of the cold by March and get a little grumpy :)

    Thanks for the chance

  11. I like winter. I'll admit, driving in the snow and ice is not my favorite thing to do. I do love watching the snow fall - especially if I am at home with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a good book! While I enjoy watching the days get longer, I even like the fact that it gets dark early - it seems so cozy

  12. Well, I try not to really wish it away too quickly. Sure, we keep the heat down in the house given we heat by oil (and, well, yikes - $), so I'm freezing half the time in here, yet no one else is as bad as me - go figure. LOL

    And it has not been as snowy as it used to be when I was a kid... which I hate, because I'm a clumsy person by nature, and ice really doesn't like me. And grammar schools/high schools (at least in the 80s and 90s when I went) called school out what seemed to be just the threat of one little snowflake. College, both when I went after high school and went back for the past couple years, ah no, not necessarily - meaning you had to try to travel to get there, and the aforementioned walking on said stuff that doesn't like me.

    Yet, I don't wish it away - because I hate summer more. LOL I can't deal with it when it gets that hot and that humid - way too harder to deal with. Cold, you can bundle up and get under the covers. Heat, definitely not.


  13. love the blog, im in southern AZ, and i dont get snow like that but i loved it when i lived in germany. here its just very cold 13 degrees at 5pm most nights. but the spring and summers times are what i look forward to the most love to be outside!

  14. CH and Carolyn, best of luck with the deadlines. At least beautiful weather isn't among your distractions this week.

    Kylan, I never thought of Alaska as humid, but I've heard about those black flies. Yikes!

    Nancy, I know spring has arrived when I hear the peepers, little singing tree frogs. Always make my heart lift.

    Jen, I notice I take my cue from the sky. I don't mind cold so much (though windy cold gets old), but that pewter sky, day after day, blahs me badly.

    Mary, I could not do Florida. Just could not--though I bet you see a lot of friends visiting come January.

    Jayne, you have fog and rain, rain, rain, which might be worse than snow for impacting mood.

    Betty, I lived in PA as a school child, and used to wonder what the kids in Florida did without snow days? Poor things!

    Marci, lizards are a very durable life form, and Texas gets its share of inconvenient weather, I'm sure.

    Pam, is there any corner of Idaho that isn't beautiful? It does help to like winter sports, and then there's hot chocolate...

    Mickey, I like the long, dark nights too. I visited equatorial Brazil once, where it got dark at six, but was 95 degrees. VERY odd.

  15. I enjoyed your post Grace. I'm a Minnesota girl. It's the home of Paul Bunyan, Vikings, State Of Hockey and the Loon and Timber Wolves, and nasty Mosquito. I have to take winter in stride. I don't have to love it. But I'd never think to leave it for good. It's refreshing. But I do like to escape from it for a brief time. I dream too of sunny places. My flower gardens blooming. I guess that's why I like to read books taking place in the hotter climates this time of year. Hot wolves, hot aliens, sexy cowboys, steamy contemporary love stories, steamy mysteries. I'll even curl up to a historical. So i grab my coat, boots, build a snowman, feed the birds, and come back in and curl up with a good book, until spring arrives.

  16. I live in northern Idaho and I must say I hate winter with a passion that consumes my soul. I turn blue under seventy degrees.

    I live for the summer. The warm weather, the fishing, sitting out on the porch sipping hard cider and writing...::sigh:: I'm counting down the months!

  17. I am a summer girl and don't like winter. I try to think about warm summer days,and get out in the sun as much as possible to get through winter. I love your books. :)


  18. Great Blog
    I really don't know what season I like the best I guess all of them. I live in southern CA so we really don't have the seasons like most people I joke we have to cold and hot. During the winter months I love to sit on the couch with a warm throw and read. During the spring/summer months I love to sit outside under the shade tree and read. So any season is good as long as I have my Kindle loaded with great books

  19. Since this is my first real winter, I have been reading a lot more. I don't like the cold. So, I like to stay nice and warm as I snuggle with a nice book.

  20. I am happy to live in the midwest where we truly have all four seasons. Winters never used to bother me, but I find them more depressing the older I get. My wish is that our spring and fall seasons were longer. I love the windy days and mild temperatures.

  21. I was born in January in Germany but can say with authority that I'm not a winter baby. To get through the intense Northeastern winters, like Grace, I read lots and lots of great books. I cook vats of yummy stew, sip red wine, hang with the fuzzy critters, and admire the lovely snow through the windows. I also need natural light but don't get out as often as I should. Oh, and Hobbits help too.

  22. I live in Houston. It doesn't snow, and if it's cold, we all get excited because it doesn't last. I have one coat and 3 sweater and 5 long sleeve shirts. I sometimes don't even get to wear them all. So I don't get too down this time of year. I do sometimes feel sad that all the fun and excitement of Christmas is over, but it's nice to get back to routine, too.

  23. Hi Grace,
    Like you, I love taking my dog for snowy strolls. Bugs are my least favorite part of summer, so I also love their temporary absence in winter. (Except we do get the odd beetle taking refuge in our house that I usually have to "rescue.") Fall is my favorite season because it's still bright and colorful but not quite as hot. I get through the cold months with my "Winter Countdown" Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas (my favorite!). This also leads up to one my favorite Christmastime family traditions: watching all three Lord of the Rings films!

  24. I am not thrilled with the dangers of snow and ice on roads. So winters have me baking and cooking up a storm. Long simmering soups, stews, casseroles and cookies and cakes. The amusing thing is that we eat pretty darned healthily so the stuff isn't generally stodgy. But the family comes together for something warming, playing cards and board games, or helping in the kitchen and the kitchen/dining area really becomes the heart of the home.

  25. All too common, Grace. The winter blues can take over if you don't cure them first. I recently escaped the cold Pittsburgh weather and headed to Riviera Maya, Mexico. Not a cloud in the sky. Amazing what a tropical vacation can do.

    Now that I'm back, there are definitely things that get under my skin. The cold weather makes me tired, it's dark at freaking 5p.m., even the dog's depressed and doesn't want to go out! My only hope is that spring is around the corner and will bring great things along with it.

    Stay warm, my friend.

  26. It is pretty mild here all year long and snow isn't a common occurence. That's why it's so lovely when we do see it...before the rain washes it away the next day! However, snow is much nicer to look at when I'm indoors than having to commute in it. I like to stay inside, keep cozy and read. In the Winter the smell of cooking lingers longer and it feels and smells very hearty.


  27. Reading, reading, reading lol. Since I can't get away, it's the next best thing! I live in PA and I seriously can't complain yet - we've only had a couple of snow storms and the weather this week is absolutely tropical.


  28. Lois, I am no fan of Maryland summers, but I've learned not to fight them. Wear few clothes, get the outside stuff done early, swill lots of a colds drinks, and stay quietly productive at the computer. Been working so far...

    Miriam, I drove down from the Canyon a few years back in the middle of a 100 year bloom. NOTHING like it. The desert does have its charms.

    D.Donna.... You'll EVEN read a historical?! EVEN!? Me too.

    Brooklyn Ann, I have family in your neck of the woods, and they say "it's not too bad." Have you seen the list? "If you wear a parka and shorts even off your own property, you're probably from Idaho..."

    Crystal, I think the brain needs sunlight to prevent it from hibernating. No science to back me up, just what happens if I hermit for too many overcast days. Glad you enjoy the books, because I love to write them.

    Ginny, my parents live in Southern California. Took 'em a few years there to figure out why EVERYBODY wanted to visit in January.

    Melody, the first one is the hardest, honest. Works the same when a horse ships up from Florida the first time. Add some Frangelico to your hot chocolate, and see if things don't improve.

    Kellianne, I'm with you. I like the transition seasons, and in Maryland, they're both too short.

    Cat, there's a veggie chili recipe I must find for you. Almost makes winter worthwhile. Almost.

    Shana, I would not trade with you, though not having to bundle up does have some appeal. When would I wear all the angora and lambswool scarves I bought in Scotland if I lived in Houston?

    Eliza, I like that we have many holidays in the winter months, starting with Vet's Day, and through Valentine's Day. I get lots of writing done, which is ALWAYS a good thing.

  29. Lil, I like that about snow days, in particular. We spend time at home. Those Canadian holidays were instituted because the suicide rates go up over the dark months, and the thinking was family time was the best antidote for low moods.

    Victoria, you forgot flu, muddy floors, dry skin, chapped lips... but at least no mosquitos.

    Na, you're right about the cooking smells. When does baking bread ever smell better?

    Catslady, I grew up on State College, which can have some real winters. As a kid that was fun, as a mom.... I don't mind a snowy winter occasionally, but the mild ones have their appeal too.

  30. normally okay any season as long as the sun is out. When it is cloudy and dreary it brings the spirits down.

  31. I get "cabin fever" as it's called and need to get out of the house every few days. Went out this morning even though we still had rain predicted. Spent almost an hour at McDonald's reading the paper and having my usual dollar menu breakfast and a senior drink. Then I went across to the grocery store and picked up a few things including the new issue of the First For Women magazine then came home. It's still totally overcast outside but hasn't rained since shortly after 10:00am. About to go back to reading Waltz With A Stranger.

  32. I dream through books all year long.


  33. Hi Grace, that is very interesting. I read articles about people having problems in the darker times of the year due to lack of sunshine. I guess, I have changed since I moved to Australia. I used to love summer and winter and had my issues with spring and autumn. Since I am down under I have a continuous blues and noticed that while my mind plans to work against it, my body is very reluctant to follow up with it. I assume (and I admit I do not have any kind of professional knowledge) that the lack of sunshine is the reason for it. You may laugh now, saying that there should be plenty of sun in Australia and you are right. BUT, the sun here is relentless, scorching, parching, dehydrating, not only for the body but also for the mind. I have been diagnosed with Vitamine D deficiency caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. I have always had a very white skin and burn very easily. So I cover up, seek shade when possible, stay inside. The heat makes us shut the roller shutters and turn on the air con. It is dark inside the house and we have the lights on. It is like winter in summer. Does this mean I live in total darkness throughout the year? Maybe, but what really prevents me from doing anything is hanging on the laptop, talking to my friends all over the world about a life I don't have and reading books of lovely authors that keeps me in a fantasy world that I rather would be in than dealing with the daily drag. Hubby and I plan on a trip to Germany next winter to have some snow and TLC from my mom. Hope for snow, lots of snow. A good cup of tea helps sometimes. :-)

  34. I hate the cold, so that's winter. I love the warmer months! For me though, I don't get the winter blahs really. But I do try to read and cuddle up to my little girl in the winter to get through the cold.
    This winter I am keeping busy by packing up my house for a move in Feb. Not the best time to move but we have to. So at least I'm keeping busy. and bundled up!

  35. I'm a winter fan! I love an excuse to put on flannel pajamas, grab my snuggliest blanket, and curl up with a good book. Not to mention that jeans and sweaters do a bang up job of hiding my extra fluff. After traveling to London for New Years a few years back I developed a love for cold weather travel. Fewer tourists, festive cheer, and you get more of an opportunity to live like a local :)

  36. Maryland child here and as all good things about memories I just remember the sunshine of Maryland summers best. Gablers Beach with my Mother as a child, she was holding me floating up between breakers on Cheaspeake Bay learning to swim. I can Float forever. LOL. I've mentioned before that Meat Loaf cheers me up anytime. Jimmy's got him playing for me right now because I need it. I've quilted and enjoyed it very much, got'em hanging around all over and snuggling between two at night. But reading is where I disappear, where else are you able to sit in your lazy chair with your feet up and travel to pure pleasure? I've completed Darius and you know I found it a treat. It's one of those books that could become a complete series, just like your Windham's. Thank you kindly, Peggy

  37. The blahs don't usually hit me until February, but I've got a book release coming up next month, so I don't think I'll get too down. And our snow is melting!

  38. I have never liked winter especially since I live in Canada and the snow can get pretty bad here. The only thing that get me going is that there's christmas season to get me through... And both of my daughters have bdays in Jan and Feb...

  39. I don't mind winter but am not fond of having to shovel the white stuff.

    Books help me get through the season.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  40. Regency Girl, I think you're right. It's the lack of sun rather than the temperature that affects us. We just don't NEED those Christmas cookies when the days are longer.

    Molly, that sounds like a lovely day, to me, and one of the things I like about First is that it's full of bright colors and happy copy. It's also surprisingly on top of the latest studies in mood and nutrition.

    bn: WHAT YOU SAID!

    Fluser, one of my friends has a child diagnosed with rickets, which is apparently becoming more common as we heed the advice to avoid strong sun, cuddle up with our laptops, and limit our dairy consumption. Hope they have Vitamin D supplements down under, and don't forget to enjoy the marzipan when you're in Germany, too.

    Alisa, good luck with the move. Is there a good time to deal with that? Is there a bad time to cuddle with the kid?

    Good point, Alana. My first trip to the Grand Canyon was in winter. LOVED it. When I went back in summer... Ye gods, what a mob. I'd like to try Scotland at New Years. I'm told it's quite a party.

    Peggy. No fair, you have Darius to keep you warm under those quilts, and you got my LAST ARC. And fear, not he IS the start of a looooong series we're calling, "The Lonely Lords."

    And Cheryl, February is Romance Month! Can you tell us which title is coming out?

    May, Canadian winters frankly scare me. I once traveled to Edmonton in late November. It was 23 below zero (Fahrenheit), and the locals were telling me that wasn't so awfully cold. No wonder the hockey rink was inside the same shopping mall as the amusement park.

    Taurus, I'm happy to live in the country--I don't bother shoveling, much--but I still have to clean off the truck when it snows and THAT is a chore.

  41. To get through long/cold winters, I paint my toe nails bright colors and walk around my house barefoot. It reminds me that soon I won't have to wear socks for at least 5 months. Also, my daughters (5 and 7) love the snowy weather so much that their joy is infectious. In the meantime, I read a lot. Well, that means nothing, I read a lot all the time. lol.

  42. I am really not good with heat (even though I was born in June), so Winter works best for me! I love cozying up with sweaters and hot cocoa:) It's part of the reason why I LOVE Christmas!! Summer for me means staying in doors in a cool room with my books:)

    Happy New Year!!!

  43. I've never really experienced a long, dark winter. I grew up in Southern California and 8 years ago I moved to Central Florida. Today it was 80 degrees outside and there was plenty of sun, but it's actually more pleasant than summer because it's a lot drier. I do have sympathy for those experiencing the whole winter thing, good luck with the snow and stuff. :D

  44. Shoes, I did enjoy winter more when I had a small child underfoot. Then she started driving, and...not so much. She's in Colorado now, and every time I ask if she wants to swap my 4WD Tundra for her Prius, she declines. Hmm.

    Yadkny, I ended up with heat exhaustion a few years back after managing a horse show in particularly stinky weather. I do not take chances with hot weather any more, because in addition to being uncomfortable, it's every bit as a dangerous as cold. And yeah... books. Always, books.

    Barbara, my parents are always telling me to move out to SoCal, because the weather's lovely (if you can afford to live right on the water, which I cannot). Yes, we have winter here in MD, but we do not have landslides, smog, sizable earthquakes, power shortages, chronic water shortages, rampant municipal insolvency (knock wood), and many other curses of a once lovely land. For now, I'll take these winters, provided I have my books, and my dreams.

  45. I love winter usually! After the summer heat here in Mississippi, winter is welcome. I don't like all the rainy, gloomy days we have though.

  46. I used to live in Montreal. A city where one can experience the 4 seasons in 1 day...but not in January. It is cold, cold, cold. One just have to learn how to cope up with it.

    As much as I adore this city, I am glad that I do not have to wake up in its cold reality. Living in The South does this to one person. I entirely embrace the gorgeous weather of my new home.

  47. I am so lucky to live in Southern California but I do admit that I sometimes get melancholy when I can't get enough light because of the weather. Books are wonderful to take us away from the things we are suffering through. I love your picture of the flowers peeking through the snow...I have found that it is important that I have something beautiful to look at during the darker months...I love having a Christmas Cactus because of the bright blossoms and I am lucky that my African violets flourish at my mother-in-law's house so that I get a chance to visit them every couple of weeks or so.

  48. Hey, that's a Texas saying, Carolyn! LOL :) Hope you have an early spring, Grace!!! :) My internet has been out for several days due to storms--spring like storms!

  49. I stay warm inside as much as possible and curl up with a good book when I can. I prefer the spring and fall, because I don't do hot or cold very well!