In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Witch casts an evil spell over Narnia, making it a cold and barren land, locked in snow and ice where it’s “always winter but never Christmas.”
Now, there’s a chilling thought.
It’s still early October and last night the mercury dropped into the 30s. I went out this morning, all bundled up, scrapped the frost from the windshield of my Honda, and drove morosely to church.
And that’s when it hit me. Here I was off to worship, and all I could do was mutter complaints about the coming season. Pathetic. The time had come to take action, and that afternoon I ran through a list of options and made some goals. One goal I decide on: I’m aiming at a no-whine winter.
Not so many years ago, I was a man for all seasons. Mix together the sweltering heat of August, October’s crisp air, February’s icy temps, and April’s soft breezes, and that meteorological brew was intoxicating.
No more. My relationship with winter the past couple of years has been about as cordial as the one between Ukraine and Russia. And yes, right now I live in the hills of Virginia and can well imagine my readers to the North thinking, “This guy is a wimp!” Guilty as charged, at least when it comes to sub-freezing temperatures.
Adding to my dread of this upcoming winter are the rising costs of fuel oil along with everything else. Two years ago, President Biden warned of a “dark winter,” and last year, he warned that the COVID unvaccinated were facing a “very bleak and dangerous winter.” I haven’t heard anything from him yet this year about his winter predictions, but for many of us, having turned down our thermostats to save fuel, it will likely be a colder winter.
I first considered visiting my local Rural King and buying myself several sets of long johns, which are essentially long thermal underwear, but then I’d feel like Pa Kettle down on the farm.
I next weighed having the propane fireplace in the den repaired, and for a few moments envisioned myself sipping a mug of hot tea and reading a book while pretending to sit before a real fireplace. This contraption apparently does throw out a bit of heat, but somehow, it’s just not me.
Another option was to add more layers of clothing, but eventually I’d look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I could adopt the Danish principle of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), but that’s more about drinking mulled wine and playing board games with friends than dealing with frozen ear lobes.
No, I decided, this battle must be won on the inside. It was time to put the wimp in storage, preferably in the freezer, and adopt a different attitude. It was time, in short, to suck it up and get tough, to embrace the dread and the pain, and so make winter my friend again.
No more laments when I step outside and it’s 25 degrees. No more cringing when the sleet is slapping my face like paintballs from a machine gun. When someone asks, “Cold enough for you?” I’ll answer, “Heck, no. I eat this stuff up.” When some pessimist declares, “This weather can’t get any worse,” I’ll play the merry optimist and reply, “Sure it can.”
“Fake it till you make it” will be my motto, and my banner will read, “I’m all in for climate change.” When it’s snowing outside, I’ll watch Dr. Zhivago. When the younger grandkids visit, I’ll read to them from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. When the weather report calls for snow, I’ll let the rest of the town race to the grocery store to strip bare the shelves of bread and milk while I enjoy a can of beans and a cup of coffee.
Will my strategy work? Only time will tell. But if I can make friends with Old Man Winter, I’ll be a happier man.
Which brings me, in a very roundabout way, back to Narnia.
In the last few years, like Lewis’s Witch, our federal government has cast its own permanent winter over our republic, making it a cold land of shadows and gloom. And like the Witch, our oppressors want us unhappy.
Whether the upcoming election may break this spell remains to be seen. Meanwhile, we have a role to play. Every time we bring joy to our lives, even in small or trivial ways, that candle we light raises the temperature a degree or two, and the darkness recedes just a little bit more.
And taken together, those tiny flames might just become a bonfire of hope and happiness in this winter of our discontent.
Image credit: Pixabay