Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Dispelling the Winter Blahs

Because of our extended winter here in the Northeast, I’ve been coming up with ways of surviving until Spring finally shows her beautiful face. Over the years I’ve come up with different strategies for getting through the month of March. This year, David and I have been playing a lot of “Settlers of Catan.” In fact, ever since we received the game from our son, Paul, for Christmas, we’ve been playing about ten games per week. We both become so engrossed in the game that we have thrown or flicked things across the room. David threw the dice a week ago, and then last night I flicked the robber off the board. Not only did I hurt my finger, but we lost the stupid thing altogether. So now we use an evil-looking red plastic thing from another game instead. Probably the “real” robber will turn up when we least expect it.

I’ve rediscovered another distraction from winter — assembling puzzles. I hadn’t even thought about doing any in a long time, but I was reminded that I enjoy them when I started driving my 89-year-old friend, Marie, to the Cancer Center for her radiation appointments. There is always a puzzle on a card table there, and people do bits of it while waiting. I’ve seen three put together in the six weeks I’ve been accompanying Marie. One day I asked myself why I don’t do this at home, since I enjoy them.

Last week I decided to get out a puzzle. Hmmm. I couldn’t find any. Then I vaguely remembered giving several to the library next door, thinking I wouldn’t ever assemble them again. So, the next day I bought one, and began putting it together. It has 1000 pieces, and each one was a struggle, because the pieces were shaped so oddly. Some puzzles seem to have “rows” of pieces, but this one did not form those neat rows. David got into the act, too, and we finished it yesterday.

I tend to like to be the only one up at night. It is so quiet and it’s my way of having time all to myself, though I hate to admit how late I stayed up to work on this puzzle for two nights. I will tell you that once it was late enough that the birds began to sing.

Back when we lived in Vermont, we started having game nights to dispel the winter blues. We’d invite a group of friends and have a potluck dessert and play games. The one that people usually gravitated to was “Dictionary.” It’s also called “Fictionary” or “Balderdash” and the name of the game is to make up definitions of words you don’t know and have it sound believable. There is a point system, but that was usually immaterial. It was so much fun, and it would keep us laughing all night long.

One of the most memorable moments was when our friend, Bill, picked the word, “swive” from the dictionary. Since he had the dictionary, he wrote down the correct definition, and then collected the rest of ours, mixed them up, and read them to the group. As we were writing ours, he kept chuckling and chuckling. When he read the correct one, we all laughed uproariously, and no one chose it. When he revealed that “to copulate” was indeed the right one, we were all flabbergasted. But it didn’t end there. Bill passed around the dictionary so we could see the root meaning of the word. If you look up the word in the College Dictionary online, you too will know the reason why Bill thought it was so funny. And of course the rest of us thought the whole thing was even funnier coming from Bill, given he as a former Jesuit priest, married to a former Maryknoll nun.

Over the years that David and I hosted these game nights, they developed into four game nights per year. We would usually host between twelve and sixteen people each night. We’d start in early February, and end sometime in late March.

Another way that I’ve been trying to usher in Spring, is by hanging my clothes out to dry. When I was with the Kochs, I was reminded how I did without a dryer when I was living in Germany for five months. I decided that I would go back to my roots by hanging out clothes, or by drying them on a rack in the house. So ever since my return, I have refrained from using the dryer, except for maybe five loads. I usually do about five loads per week. I notice that I enjoy doing laundry now. There is something so satisfying about folding sheets and clothing that smell of the fresh outdoors, and it’s a whole lot more inspiring than leaning over and emptying a dryer of clothes that have now become crumpled and forlorn-looking.

When Spring finally comes, I will delight in making the transition — cleaning the house from top to bottom, including all the windows inside and out, changing the clothes in our closets so the winter clothes are in the spare closet, and the summer ones are at our fingertips, and eating locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables in place of the tired-looking winter veggies in the refrigerator drawer. David and I will be able to get out our bikes from the garage, pump up the tires, and go for an evening spin together as often as we want. I have to tell myself that this time will come, as it has every year so far.

Has Spring arrived where you live? If so, what are some of the ways you celebrate it? And for those who are still waiting… how do you survive the end of a long winter?

Looking forward to crocuses… Photo by Saloma Furlong

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