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Last Sunday evening, in the warm company of friends, I realized what I like best about winter.
Friends Steve and Helen, who live on the edge of Catoosa Ridge, had cooked up a big pot of Mexican hominy stew and issued an all-call to their friends.
Later, on their deck, the group of us admired the bare and twisted chestnut oak that dominates their viewshed and then turned a telescope up to the heavens to marvel at the moons of Jupiter.
My realization didn’t quite register until the following night, when I noticed that the trees behind my house are finally bare enough to see Hwy. 70 and Interstate 40 down the hill in the distance.
That’s when it came to me: What I like about winter is the clarity — even the austerity — of it all.
Nothing beats a star-filled winter’s night to inspire wonder at the universe.
And the landscape, swept bare of the softening greenery, is more stark and dramatic.
I enjoy this time of year because I can see deep into the woods behind my yard — watching the woodpeckers, titmice, cardinals, Carolina wrens, nuthatches, cedar waxwings and other birds as they do their best to stay alive when food is scarce and comfort is hard to come by.
When I have food in the birdfeeder, the show outside is better than most of the offerings on TV.
Winter, especially when I see wild animals foraging, makes me appreciate my creature comforts.
I tend to cook more — if for no other reason than to cozy up the house more.
I watch the weather and try to choose my outerwear carefully. Unlike the birds, with their one down coat, I can layer with sweaters and fleece.
And what is better on a winter’s night than snuggling deep under the blankets, with little more than your nose and face exposed to the cool night air?
And, as I have every years since I moved here in 2002, I’ll have my cross-country skis and boots ready — just in case we get enough snow to use them.
(Hope springs eternal, right?)
Now the truth of it is my appreciation for winter will be worn thin by the time January blends into February.
I’ve never aspired to live anywhere where there aren’t four distinct seasons.
For better or for worse, the seasons in East Tennessee are about as distinctive as any you could wish for.