Living Madly: Dearest Winter

Photo by James Wheeler

Living Madly: Dearest Winter

By Emilie-Noelle Provost

My husband, Rob, and I collect landscape paintings. We have several hanging in our house. Some of our paintings were created by local artists, but we also own many by national and even international painters. I’m not an art expert. I most often will decide to buy a painting based on the feeling I get when I look at it. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but if a landscape painting is “right,” something about it feels warm and familiar to me, even if the subject is a place I’ve never visited. To me, all of our paintings feel like home.

A couple of years ago, after looking at some of our paintings, a friend asked, “Why are all of your landscapes of winter scenes?” Although it should have been obvious, I had never actually noticed that this was the case. But it’s true. Of the many landscape paintings we own, only two don’t depict snow, and both of those are of scenes of late autumn — almost winter.

After thinking about it, I recognized that although I don’t like losing the feeling in my toes more than anyone else, winter is the season that feels most comfortable to me. I’m not sure why it took me so long to notice this, but the evidence is everywhere: I use a snowflake icon to represent myself on my computer. My screensaver displays images of glaciers, snowy forests, and frozen lakes. One of the top items on my bucket list is to go to Norway during the winter to see the northern lights. I love wearing boots and sweaters and wool socks. And more than anything, I hate hot weather. Whenever the temperature rises above eighty degrees, I get irritable and start wishing it were November.

Winter has always brought with it an element of magic. There’s almost nothing like the moment when the first snow of the season begins to fall. It’s nearly impossible to avoid staring out the window when it comes. If I can, I go outside to experience the swirling flakes in person.

Although they are what many people dislike most about winter, the season’s cold and darkness are almost always welcome. As a writer, the winter is my most productive time. And there are few things I love more than sitting by the fireplace, a big pot of something good simmering on the stove. I’ve even been known to sit out in my unheated car during snowstorms so I can look at the shapes of individual snowflakes as they land on the windshield.

Rob and I have a few favorite trails we hike all winter long. The silence of the snowy woods helps me think through just about anything. And though you might have to look a bit harder to find it, seeing winter wildlife is worth the extra work. We’ve spotted swans, beavers, mink, geese, deer and a whole variety of songbirds, not to mention tons of interesting animal tracks. No insect repellent required.

Perhaps it’s because I was born in the winter, or maybe my appreciation of the season’s charms stems from some sort of genetic memory spawned by my ancestors from Quebec, but I seem to be in rare company, even among all the New Englanders and Canadians I know. I don’t mind, though. It just means I’m more likely to have those hiking trails to myself.

In art and literature, winter is traditionally seen as a symbol of death, despair, or loneliness, but I’ve never thought of it that way. Winter is an opportunity to rest, recharge, and think about things I need or want to do. It’s a time for planning our summer garden, family celebrations, and projects large and small. The night sky in winter is a wonder to behold, and at no time of year does the air smell fresher or more alive.

It’s January, and although many people I know are pining for July or planning vacations at tropical resorts, I’m waiting for the next blizzard so I can strap on my snowshoes and go for a long walk in the snow.

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Emilie-Noelle Provost (she/her) will appear at the Pollard Memorial Library at 401 Merrimack St. in Lowell on Jan. 24, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. to talk about her second novel, “The River Is Everywhere.” The 216-page book published by Vine Leaves Press in March 2023 is the coming-of-age story of a Franco-American teenager, set in a fictional version of Lowell, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Berkshires, and New Brunswick, Canada.

The book is the recipient of a National Indie Excellence Award and an American Fiction Award.

In the event of inclement weather, the talk will be held virtually.

Admission to the event is free. But the library asks that participants register ahead of time so that a link to the virtual event can be emailed to them if necessary. Visit the library’s online event calendar to register.

For more information about Emilie, visit her website at emilienoelleprovost.com.

One Response to Living Madly: Dearest Winter

  1. Jim Provencher says:

    Nearing 80, the deepening winter season of my life, navigating a seeming void, preparing
    for the empty bardo walk to come, thank you for your wonderfully rich evocation of a silent, solitary,
    clarifying cold…

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