My salient impression of Winter is its beauty, far outweighing its danger and challenges. Certainly, other seasons have their own unique beauty – but to me, they do not compare to the stark, austere, and lasting beauty of Winter, with its ever-close-to-the surface underlying danger. My personal preference.
The vista of a countryside covered, softened, and enhanced by the rolling snowdrift dunes of bluish-white virgin snow, begging for someone to make tracks in it – an irresistible appeal, well worth the required bundling up to cope. The deep indigo blue – almost black - of the sky overhead on a blindingly bright, cloudless winter day when lying on one's back, making snow angels, and looking straight up overhead. A phenomenon that only winter brings.
The unearthly fairyland beauty of the morning after an ice storm, a brilliant blue cloudless sky overhead. The sunlight turns every tree branch, twig, and twiglet into a diamond-encrusted jewel, sparkling with every slight movement. India's Rajahs never had jewels to compare! The glare is blinding and enthralling.
The calm of a cold winter morning, looking out over the valley at dawn, and seeing the smoke from all the chimneys rising straight up in columns until they reach temperature equilibrium and puff out into a growing spheres atop the columns. Like ever so many hazy blue mushrooms have suddenly sprouted. Then the Sun comes up fully over the hills, and gradually dissipates them. Show's over!
The Northern Lights – the Aurora – walking home from work one morning ~03:00, temperature –30°F./-34C., with the Northern Lights radiating strings of white fire from a central point, like the ribs of a gigantic, fiery umbrella. The snow underfoot squeaks like cornstarch or singing sands – there is no moisture in it to dampen the sounds – something that happens only on very cold nights, with a fresh snowfall.
The blaze of the huge bonfire of all the community's discarded Xmas trees on Twelfth Night, in Redjacket Park, with everyone that is anyone all turned out to party. A good time had by all, kids playing, adults renewing acquaintance. A good get-together. Regretfully gone now, with the Politically Correct "Recycling" overriding the need for Community get-together. Sad. But that's Progress. Supposedly.
Another very dim memory, from when I was ~3 years old: At Midwinter, the whole small rural community (a basically Fundamentalist Christian community, with a few deviations) gathered for a bonfire, circled by hay bales for seating, and two-high bales behind those for backrest and to keep the cold off. Adults laughing, singing, and telling stories. We had some pretty good (and sometimes scary!) story tellers in our community. The night gradually passed, individuals dozing off for a moment, children curled up in abundant laps. Eventually the Eastern sky lightened, and the sun peeked over the hills again. We had survived the Longest Night. The gathering dissipated, people heading off for their homes, with a brand from the bonfire to light their stoves and fireplaces at home. A good and worthwhile gathering. People were close in those ancient days. Had to be. Survival depended on it. I guess we needed each other's support in this ancient rite. Not really a religious rite – just something that was always done – because it was always done that way. Something to be said for that reasoning, on occasion.
Sledding: There is nothing quite like doing a belly-flopper on a sled at the top of a long, snowy, fairly steep hill, and racing downward, wind and snow and ice shards stinging your face and blurring vision. An adventure. A couple of my more memorable sledding adventures: I took my new (to me) Xmas sled to the top of my hill (I was ~4 at the time) leading into our little valley. Perfect sledding – a new fall of ~2"/50mm. Great! What I didn't know was that the new snowfall masked solid, slick-as-grease glare ice underneath, all the way. I did a belly-flopper and headed down a-hellin' – much faster than I expected! I was scared witless, literally. I had two alternatives: to turn right into my yard, where the grass poking through would slow me down, or keep going straight in hopes that I would make it straight across the bridge and gradually slow down at the bottom. I dithered, and turned right a bit too late. Catapulted into the elderberry thicket over the creek, just to the right of the bridge. Knocked me out for a moment, and gashed my chin. Doctor called by Mom, and he came out and sewed me up. (They made house calls in those ancient days!) Unfortunately, he was not much on new-fangled pain-killers. I still have the scar to this day. I must say I became a wiser and more cautious young tad.
Soon after this, my second adventure occurred: The Bobsled. My Dad had a 6-person bobsled, and the hill was still perfect for sledding. My parents invited two other couples over for an evening of bobsledding and discreet revelry. I was somehow involved, and chivvied along. I did not really like the idea of going down The Hill even faster than I had by myself. Nevertheless, at the top of the hill, I was grabbed and wedged between two adults. Off we went, a-hellin' – even faster than on my sled. Fortunately the steersman was better than I. We zoomed safely across the bridge and halfway up the opposite hill, coming to a gradual stop. I got off, and without a word to anyone stalked off home, away from this insane and suicidal venture. Later the adults came in and gathered around our pot-bellied stove for mulled cider, donuts, and good talk. A good time was had by all – I by the fire, and them repeatedly attempting suicide.