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In search of the gray day

Winter in Minnesota, there’s all kinds of rumours about it. Harsh cold air, thirty below zero without the windchill factor, days of never ending snow. “It’s a dry cold”, they said. “It’s all about the layers.” After 27 years I still haven’t figured out what the right number of layers is. When I first moved here someone told me “the cold builds character.” Really? I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, I don't need any more character and in fact I probably could have had less, but then I wouldn't be me.

What people don’t talk about or tell you, as if it were a secret, is that winter in Minnesota is stunningly beautiful, with clear blue cloudless skies. Skies so blue you don’t need to photoshop your pictures, and the sun is so blindingly bright that there are days when I wear sunglasses in the house due to the reflection of the sun on the snow.

However, it is true that we can get some very cold temps with surreal windchill factors, and layering is important for warmth, as well as a trunk filled with snow safety and survival items which includes chocolate bars. We can start getting snow as early as October. It doesn’t usually last .. but it can happen. Snow can happen as late as April. There are days you get the feeling spring will never come, but then, suddenly, all of the gardening magazines arrive in your mailbox, bringing back memories of warm days playing and planting in the dirt, harvesting the fruits and veggies of your labors.

My first Mother’s Day in Minnesota it snowed. I called my mother to say Happy Mother’s Day and ended up crying on the phone because it started snowing while I was talking to her. It didn’t matter that it melted by the afternoon, the struggle was real in my early years living here and only twenty percent of it had anything to do with the weather.

Sunshine. Clear skies. Crisp cold air. Sounds lovely right? It is. Yet with all of that sunshine I tend to feel like I need to keep going, and doing, as if it’s summer and the days are long and warm. I can garden in the early mornings, see clients in the afternoons, have dinner on the deck with friends, and listen to the chorus of frogs on the small, small, pond as night falls. But it is not summer, it is winter where sometimes I need a gray day to bring me to stillness, to a pace that is slow. One that makes me think I have a lot of time to get everything done, where I don’t need to hurry or cram it all in.

This winter has been very sunny and I keep waiting for a nice stretch of gray days so I can slow down, spend longer than usual in shavasana at the end of my yoga practice, write as if time is all I have, and get lost in my books. Gray days allow me to drink hot cups of tea, listen to melancholy music, and decide what hearty soup or stew to make for my family. I want a gray day with a heavy snowfall and no one needs to leave the house. We stay in pajamas, read, nap, go for walk, or play a game. I want to be in that head space where it feels like time is standing still and it is so gray that you cannot tell if it is morning, noon or night.

It is a Monday morning and my coffee is cold. The sound of the kettle goes off to let me know that hot water is ready for tea. I am still in my pajamas as I grab my journals, four books and a heavy blanket and bring them to my chair by the window in the living room. There are no geese or ducks right now but there are squirrels, birds and rabbits. While my tea steeps, I prepare my viewing, reading, and writing nest. Hot tea in hand I get myself settled in and place my cell phone face down with the ringer off. As I look out the window I hear the wind chimes and watch the phoebes on the ground while the downy woodpecker works away at the suet feeder. The skies are a dark gray and it seems like it might snow.

Writing and reading are complete as I begin my work day. It feels luxurious to have sat by my window observing the birds, squirrels and rabbits.

When I create or designate time and space for myself I feel renewed and nourished. There is more of me available - not only to me, but to my family, friends, and clients. I begin to dismantle my cozy nest while grabbing my planner to see what my schedule has in store for me.

My search for a gray day wasn’t an entire day but it was a morning. A morning where I was able to stop and soak in the simple pleasures of quiet, drinking tea, observing wildlife, and taking care of me.

“Take time to nourish your mind, nurture your body and feed your soul.”


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