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Slayton: Winter Pleasures

03/09/11 7:55AM By Tom Slayton
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(HOST)  Commentator Tom Slayton doesn't mind all the ice and snow we've had this winter. In fact, he thinks this is the way winter should be.

(SLAYTON) At last we find ourselves, again, in the grip of what everyone is calling a "real Vermont winter." I’d begun to wonder if global warming was going to rob us of that pleasure forever.

But wait, did I say "pleasure?"

There must be some mistake. This is the season, after all, of 20-below-zero cold and snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm, with the attendant endless shoveling and wood splitting. This last monster storm just put the icing, so to speak, on the cake (and my driveway).

It is, undeniably, the season of whiteouts on the Interstate, the season of layers of clothing, the season when every little thing seems more complicated and difficult.

Well, yes, I have to admit that winter these days lacks some of the Romantic charm it had for me 20 or even 10 years ago. And yet this winter - a real Vermont winter, at last - has its pleasures, too.

For one thing, it’s just plain, old-fashioned beautiful. Heavy snow reduces the countryside to its bare essentials and provides a pure-white canvas on every field that weeds and stubble brush with patterns of blacks and browns and tans and grays. The mountains, all blue and white, look new to me after every snowstorm.

Even the streets in the little city where I live are transformed by the heavy snows. Yes, I admit that the snowbanks can get pretty grubby by March. But that seems a small price to pay for the magical effect of snowfall under streetlamp light late at night. Everything seems purified, tinged with a romantic hue.

Lord knows, we need a little romance in mid-winter, especially after shoveling, or pounding the ice off our roof. Well, the falling snow at night helps us find that remote part of our hearts once again, the part that we perhaps forgot when we left childhood behind.

And then there’s the skiing, which has been terrific, and best of all, even when you fall the fact that you’ve got three feet of snowpack for a landing pad makes the impact easier....  Well, a little easier.

Perhaps the deepest, most complex  pleasure for me, though, has been the feeling of actually connecting with the elements. The harsh wind in my face, the way sub-zero cold creeps into the corners of your house, and of your psyche; the simple work of bringing in enough firewood for the night makes it hard to deny that we are part of the natural world, not its master - that fiction we amuse ourselves with in milder seasons.

I like the turning of the year, and, sure, I’ll be ready for spring when it comes. Spring is, in many ways the best time of all.

But sitting in front of the fire after a day outdoors, my face windburned, my whole body accepting the honest lethargy of physical exhaustion, those I love near at hand; maybe a book, maybe not; I find that winter is hard to beat.
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