Winter: It’s all in your perspective

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bears and sharks and butterflies are neither good nor bad — they simply are what they are. Like Popeye. So, too, with winter in Tidewater. It has its drawbacks and advantages. It is what it is.

The weather itself is usually 42, rainy, gray, with off and on wind — not what you’d call balmy. So much for deck time.

The sun rises after 7 a.m. and sets about 5 p.m. Low light causes Seasonal Affective Disorder. Lots of depression in winter, even for — or especially for — young people, like students and others convinced they’ll never get to wear a bikini or cutoffs again.

Email newsletter signup

You could perk up by smelling the flowers, but there aren’t many, just the odd camellia or struggling pansy. Walks in nature are nice, but cold and somewhat barren. A few leaf stragglers blow in wisps about the ankles. It reminds one of T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “the burnt-out ends of smoky days….”

Then there are the Polar Plunges, invasions of Arctic air bringing snow then slush then ice then slush again.

You could go fishing, if there were fish to catch beyond the odd blue catfish. Not much there.

So it’s stay home and hump firewood and ponder the spinning of the electric meter or the gas meter. This is not a Chamber of Commerce picture. Think of Ebenezer before the visits from the ghosts.

But winter has its comforts, too. Sitting by a cozy fire is heartwarming, as well as foot-warming. A pot of soup or chowder on the stove fills the house with savory smells.

Bird activity is at its peak around feeders — black oil seeds, suet cakes, wildlife peanuts from the Wakefield Peanut Co. One can sit in the warmth and bask in the knowledge that outdoors the birds and squirrels are better fed for your efforts.

It’s a wonderful time to bring out the rods and reels and oil them, polish them, re-spool them. And naps — don’t forget winter naps under six inches of soft down or fleece.

While outdoor flowers aren’t much, paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis fill indoor areas with color and aroma. It’s a great time to plan your garden and peruse seed catalogs in the vain hope that your plants will resemble those in the brochure.

The days are getting longer and longer by leaps and bounds — can spring be far away? The occasional snowfalls are delightful, whether just dusting down in flurries or covering the lawn and tree limbs in a white blanket.

Kids especially love saucering, sledding, snow angels and the hot chocolate that inevitably follows. Geese, cardinals and bluejays are especially attractive in snow.

It’s a winter wonderland. Think of Scrooge after the visits from the ghosts.

Well … there it is. And it is what it is. Bleak or cozy? Harsh or heartwarming? Stark or softened by the snow? One can choose to dwell on either aspect of winter in Tidewater.

“Attitude is everything,” and that’s never truer than in January and February in Tidewater.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at