Winter is my least favorite season. In fact, I would go as far as to say I really rather dislike it. The cold, bitter winds and snow are just not my thing. So you might think this month I would just say, “Stay inside. Don’t nature journal.” You would be mistaken. You see, while I dislike almost everything about winter, it has provided some of my best memories of nature. One of them, I share with you today.
My first Thanksgiving in Michigan had me waking up to 6 inches of snow on the ground with the snow still falling. I worked the next day so I wasn’t able to go back to Illinois for the holiday, “Welcome to winter in Michigan.” So what was I going to do? Life had given me snow so I decided to embrace the snow. I took my camera out to the Huron River at the Delphi Metro Park just west of Ann Arbor. I had the park to myself, not a soul was around. No human tracks to be found anywhere. Just the snow, quiet and me. It was wonderful. A snow covered landscape is a “cozy quiet” that unless you have experienced it, it is hard to describe. I stood on the bridge that crosses the river, looking out at the beautiful scene, breathing in the cold crisp air when the magic happened.
I heard a cracking noise and watched a stag, with a huge rack of antlers, charge out of the woods and plunge into the river. He broke his way through the ice and crossed the river. Icy plumes of water kicking up around him as he ran. It was truly magnificent. So incredible in fact that I forgot I was holding a camera and didn’t take a single shot. It was a moment that I will remember always. (Of course, I did go home and draw the experience. So maybe that is why it sticks in my mind. Hint, hint)
This is what I hope for you this winter. To embrace winter and a mindset that involves accepting the unique aspects of the winter months. People living in Scandinavian countries call it “hygge.”
Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Norwegian word, which loosely translates to “coziness.” Hygge is about pursuing mental well-being and finding joy in the most humdrum aspects of life. Often connected to hygge is another idea: friluftsliv, pronounced free-loofts-liv. The Norwegian word for “free air life” or “life outside.” Together, these two words mean that families in that part of the world see no barriers, weather or otherwise, to deep engagement with the outdoors year-round. Try practicing hygee and friluftsliv (even if you can’t pronounce them) this month by enjoying Nature in her cold and snowy best. And then come back inside to journal about what you experienced. Holding a pencil or pen is still infinitely easier when your fingers aren’t ice cold.
Quick Tip: A bird feeder put by a window is a great way to embrace the season without standing in the cold. (I did say I really didn’t like winter.) The birds will enjoy having a steady food source during bad weather and you get to observe their behavior without freezing.
Sketching Tip: If you need practice sketching birds, try drawing the photos in a bird identification book. The birds in those guides don’t move, making it a lot easier to sketch.