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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18 thoughts on “Dispelling the Winter Blahs”

  1. Salome, Several yrs ago my dryer gave up the ghost so my husband decided to make drying racks. We have been drying our wash ever since on the racks. However I did brake down and got a dryer which I hardly use. I seem to know how to shake out the wrinkles better than my husband because I usually have to iron out the wrinkles of what he has hung up. We have a wood burning stove and solar panels and sort out the trash. It is the best we can do to help save the environment. I get so irritated when I see how wasteful people can be sometimes and then I realize that a lot of what I do I learned from my own mother. We didn’t have all kinds of modern conveniences and my parents had no money to allow wasteful practices. Now I am thankful but I had no idea how lucky I really was.
    gr. Mary

    1. Mary, I am right there with you… we have solar panels, do recycling, and now we hang out our wash. We no longer have a wood stove, but our home is energy we’ve made our home energy efficient, so we don’t burn a lot of fuel. So we are also trying to do our part. I think being mindful of the footprint we leave is most important. So many do not think about that.

      And you’re right about something else… those of us who didn’t have a lot to waste when we were growing up gained something from those experiences, for which we can be grateful.

      Have a wonderful week, Mary.

  2. Saloma, I think you have chosen some wonderful things to help pass the time while you are waiting for Spring to arrive. I love jigsaw puzzles and will plan to get one out next winter. Also hanging laundry outside in the sun to dry is an amazingly comforting thing to do. I LOVE the smell and feel of the clothes as I remove them from the line.

    Spring will arrive up there, I promise!

    1. Joan, thanks for the promise. I saw the photo of your garden on your blog, and it was hard not to long for a warmer climate.

      I know… bringing wash in from the line is one of my favorite things to do.

      Enjoy Spring!

  3. Tired vegetables? I’ve been getting lovely root vegetables (not at all tired) and greens of all kinds at the winter farmers market at Smith Vocational School in Northampton. Saturdays from 9 am – 2 pm. I learned about shredded root vegetable salads and roasted root veggies (brush chunks with oil and bake). Local salad greens all winter long! I’m spoiled. This market goes to the end of April. They have local musicians playing and we’ve heard a lot of Peter Blanchette and his archguitar (11-string guitar he made) doing beautiful classical music.

    My favorite puzzles are Ravensburger ones, usually acquired at tag sales. Probably pretty pricey if purchased new.

    Our local NPR station used to air Says You, a wonderful word play game show. Apparently it is now on their AM off shoot, WNNZ. Rats! My receiver doesn’t get AM. I only hear it in the car. Guess I’ll have to resort to the podcast.

    1. Johanna, thank you for the tips. I will definitely need to go to the winter farmers market… I did not know about it until you mentioned it.

      I like the Ravensburger puzzles too. Like you said, though, they are pricey.

      I’ve heard Says You on NPR, but I didn’t know they moved it to another station.

      I’ve also been listening to Irish music while assembling the puzzle with You Tube and the Bluetooth speaker our son gave to David as a gift. It lifts my spirits.

      Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

  4. Thank you for the bright and happy post! Spring has not yet arrived in southeastern Alaska either – this has been the snowiest March I have ever seen! – but it’s coming. Today it even rained a little bit!

    In this senior housing complex where I have lived for the last four years we keep a jigsaw puzzle going in the Community Room most of the time, and people stop by all the time. I also have my sketching/painting table going and sometimes people stop by to be sketched. I enjoy that a lot. I hope someday to be good enough at likenesses to take my sketch pads to fairs and markets to sketch passersby.

    I also have my stories I work on- and even a play that we want to put on, and of course, I have music nights every week when friends come in from ‘outside’ to make music for a few hours – so, as you can see, winters around here are not quite long enough!

    1. Elva, this all sounds like so much fun. It hadn’t occurred to me that there are those who enjoy winter, even in March. Thank you for reminding me of you all!

      I didn’t know that drawings and music are among your talents. I’m sad to say that neither are among mine… :)

      Thank you for once again, lending a different perspective to the subject of my post. You have a talent for thinking outside the box… thank you!

  5. My take on winter is a bit different. I’ve always loved snow and cold, which is one of the reasons I moved to the Maine Woods. No matter how long the winter has been (ice-out on Moosehead Lake is usually in late April or early May), I’m always a little sorry to see the snows melt. The somewhat warmer temperatures and longer daylight of March make it a lovely time for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking on microspikes, depending on the snow/ice conditions. I celebrated the Spring Equinox last week by going for a long ski over the surface of still-solidly-frozen Moosehead Lake, crossing the lake from west to east and circling around Mount Kineo, which Thoreau once climbed. And March also brings maple sugaring season. Today was Maine Maple Sunday, which I celebrated by visiting two sugarhouses operated by friends, basking in the warm maple steam as the sap boiled down to syrup, and sampling maple treats.

    1. Wendy, like Elva, you bring the perspective of someone who loves winter. Thank you for that.

      I know Maine in summer way better than winter. The few times I’ve been there in winter, it was SO bitterly cold that it hurt my forehead to be outside, and so I’ve been scared of it ever since.

      It’s another gray day here in the Pioneer Valley. My laundry hangs indoors, in such a forlorn manner. I think it’s predicted to clear up mid-week.

      Your description of visiting sugarhouses sure does take me back to Ohio and Vermont, and it reminds me that I should go to one of the local ones here to be enveloped by that sweet-smelling steam. Maybe when I’m done with the book I’m having a hard time putting down, I will.

      Thanks, Wendy, for your cheery comments.

  6. Arida van oudenallen

    Hello Saloma, boardgames are very populair in my family!!!in an our my granddaughter is coming out of school and always want to play. But.. today idon’t know, because the weather is so beautiful, i think she wants to play in the sand. I am joying her there outside in the sun with a crochet!the girl is 4 years and her brother of 2 is stil sleeping after playing in the morning in the sun So spring is here!!!!

    1. Happy Spring, Arida! And oh, would I love to be there and play with your young ones. There is nothing like watching children play in the outdoors for the first time in the year!

      Thanks for providing a glimpse into a spring day in Holland!

  7. Hi Saloma, have you ever tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle WITHOUT the picture? That is even more of a challenge if you want one!

    1. I sometimes like to do that, but with this puzzle, we had to rely heavily on the picture. Otherwise it was just too frustrating.

      David and I go at it very differently. He likes to pinpoint exactly where a piece goes before he even tries it… I like to try to fit a piece if it looks like it belongs. We worked as a team on this one… he used his method and I used mine.

      Wishing you a wonderful week, Denise.

  8. Saloma, do you allow photos to be posted here? Today I did a color-pencil portrait of you and I’m quite pleased with it. I’d like to post it IF this site can handle it.


    1. Elva, first of all, I am so flattered that you did a portrait of me.

      I honestly don’t know if this site handles photos. You can try it, and if it doesn’t, I’d be happy to post it in my next blog post.

      Many thanks!

  9. tom the backroads traveller

    …spring is alway a tug-a-war between winter and summer. So often winter seems to have the upper hand.

  10. I appreciate this post very much. We live in rural Vermont and the long winters can be a struggle without the warmth of the sun. There is nothing like bright sunshine to keep one cheerful. I like the idea of doing puzzles. I also love the suggestions in all the comments here. Thank you!

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