Return to story

Lovers of cold icily lord it over the rest of us

January 5, 2013 12:10 am

Barbara Holland (1933-2010), a Washingtonian, moved to Bluemont (pop. 200) in Loudoun County in 1993 and wrote "Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences." A manifesto for enjoying the unsung, out-of-fashion, or slightly disreputable joys of life, the book was a defiant rejoinder to the Puritan spirit that variously possesses religious crusaders and radical feminists, fitness fanatics and subdivision covenanteers, vegans and workaholics, and all the other grim tribes of Scold Nation whose purpose is to make us feel bad about feeling good.

With the permission of Barbara Holland 's publisher, we are excerpting chapters from "Endangered Pleasures" on this page each month.

We do not necessarily endorse every indulgence profiled by the author. But by golly she does make them sound good.


"IF WINTER comes," asked Shelley, "can Spring be far behind?"


Winter-lovers hold themselves morally superior to summer-lovers, and moral superiority is one of life's great joys. They look upon summer-lovers as timid, slothful, and probably helpless on skis or behind the wheel in freezing slush. They know we feel that subfreezing temperatures are hostile and out to get us, while the roadways want to murder us outright. They, gallant spirits, merrily embrace the challenges from which we shrink.

They are, to put it bluntly, a pain in the a--, but there's no denying they're having fun.

The winter-lover strides around the office, all but beating his or her chest, and cries, "I love the winter! I love cold weather! It makes me feel so alive!" Beyond the windows the rain segues into rattling sleet and then hushes to blobs of snow. Colleagues at the water cooler gulp vitamin C, cough, sniffle, and, in March, keep checking the calendar as one checks one's watch at a long meeting: Surely, surely, it must be the 10th or 11th by now? Can it really be only the sixth? While the winter-lover struts and crows and broadcasts plans to weekend even farther north, where the snow is deeper and the lakes more stiffly frozen.

Now that the suntan of summer has gone the way of bacon and eggs, the skier's windburn and occasional crutches have replaced it as emblems of vigor and the healthy outdoor life. If the summer sun has become our enemy, dark winter must be our new friend. The brave leap into its arms. The rest of us can only wait for July, when the wretched creatures wilt, sweat, sicken, and turn pale. "I love the heat," we can say, blooming aggressively.

The trouble with winter is that it's winter all the way through. Other seasons make progress; temperatures grow warmer or cooler, waves of flowers or leaf colors succeed each other. Winter simply moves in and stops dead. The snows of December look remarkably like the snows of March, and a bare tree remains a bare tree for months.

Only the contracting and then expanding hours of daylight show any sign of time passing. Small wonder our ancestors whooped it up at the solstice--how else to sustain our loony faith in spring, with nature in a coma or possibly stone-cold dead?

There are pleasures to be wrung from winter, though many are negative ones, like finally getting our feet warm or the car started or the walk cleared.

There's sex, for instance. It stands to reason that sex is better in winter than in summer; old-timers may remember Cole Porter's song, "Too Darn Hot," in "Kiss Me, Kate." The healthy human body radiates a temperature of 98.6, or considerably warmer than the usual room, and winter urges us to cuddle up to it, as cats who sleep widely separated in August are inextricably entwined in January. Obstetricians are fond of saying, "If we've had a bad winter, I'll have a busy fall."

Sex in front of an open fireplace was more entertaining than sex in front of the ecologically correct sealed wood-stove, but all is not lost; sex under a down comforter beats wrestling with the heaped blankets of yesteryear.

Then there are the winter projects. Winter is the natural time to clean out the files, read the great books of the Western world, build bookshelves, knit sweaters, and organize the basement. Completing these tasks gives us the glow of accomplishment plus the sense of time freed up for different pursuits in better weather.

A December sunset can be a fine sight, though the most vivid ones foretell the bitterest nights.

A couple of inches of new-fallen snow looks pretty, at least for a while, and covers up all that hideous bare ground and dead grass; April snow on green grass and crocuses isn't nearly as nice.

Deeper snow can mean all bets are off and all responsibilities on hold, at least until the plows get through.

Winter-lovers claim to enjoy the look of the world in winter, reduced to basics; the elaborate skeletons of trees, the stark contours of the land laid bare, and so forth. Others are reminded of nudist colonies, where the naked flesh is only sometimes more delightful than its discarded clothes.

Somehow even the heartiest snowbirds are rarely heard to exclaim, "I can't believe it's almost April. Where did the winter go?"

Barbara Holland wrote "Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanities, and Other Indulgences" and other books. The above commentary is excerpted from "Endangered Pleasures." ©1995 by Barbara Holland . Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Co.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.