Originally published November 2014
I hate winter.
I really don’t think that can be overstated. I haaaaaate winter. I hate the frigid cold, I hate the blistering wind, I hate the static buildup and dry skin, I hate the bundling layer after layer, I hate the frigid cold …. did I mention the cold?
Ironically, I think snow is very pretty. So there. I’m not that bitter about the season that I can’t find some nugget of joy, however small.
After last winter in Chicago, I stare at the calendar as the days inch closer to the hell that is our meteorlogical winter, and I am trying—TRYING—to garner the strength to face another 3, 4,5 or even six months of craptastic weather. But there is this—this book—that has made a dent in my hatred for all things November, December, January, February and March.
Longtime Chicago Tribune reporter and columnist Barbara Mahany has carefully culled together some of her favorite essays, recipes and meditations on the seasons in “Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door.”
I had the pleasure of visiting with Mahany in her backyard oasis late in the summer, as she was prepping for the book release. When I broached the subject of the book, she said, “I think it is a little bit of a magical tale.” One that bloggers should sit up and pay attention to.
See, it was her dogged persistence in writing a column for the paper that resulted first in a blog of her own, then the book. “I wanted to show them (the Trib) what I could do,” says Mahany. Being on the receiving end of her son’s refurbished laptop, her son said, “Mom, you should blog. You can do this.”
After several years of blogging at pullupachair.org, Mahany had a wealth of thoughts and meditations and when approached over and again about developing a book, she found the time last year as husband and Chicago Tribune architectural critic Blair Kamin became a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
“Slowing Time” is not just a collection of essays, but in some ways a field guide to the seasons, and the ways in which we can breathe in and embrace them.
Winter is coming—and not just in Game of Thrones fashion. It’s easy to default to bitch mode as the thermometer drops in typical, Chicago-style rapid fashion. But Mahany’s section devoted to winter takes the reader by the shoulders and shakes some good sense into them, just by asking you to look around and take notice of the inherent beauty of the season. Things like:
“Frost ferns on the windowpanes …”
“Soup kettle murmurings low, steady, hungrily …”
“Snow falling first in feather-tufts, then fairy-dusted stars, and finally, prodigiously, in what could only be curds …”
But it’s this—her recognition of winter as the season of fresh starts—that gets to the essence of turning that seasonal frown upside down:
“I stand here praying, hoping, promising that my next go-round on this old globe might be the one that draws me closer to the unfettered essence I was meant to be. The one not weighted down with doubt and double-guessing …It is, I hope and pray and believe, by little and by little—by little dose of courage, by little kindness, by little gentleness—that we inhale the promise: to shake off our wobbles, stand tall, and launch the climb again.
To launch the climb again. LOVE IT. Puts a purpose to the season, doesn’t it? The book, spiritual, but not in-your-face has a sense of sacred running through it, and I asked Mahany about that theme. “I am a spiritual person,” she says, and notes she finds her ability to connect with herself and the seasons and nature is optimal in the morning hours, when she wakes and meditates.
For her, it’s all in the art of paying attention. “The older I get … you realize the holiest way to live this life is to savor every breath.”