This time of year in NW Montana, the night lasts longer than the day. A depressing thought at first when you consider all that darkness: a lot of non Montanans ask me "What do you do in the winter"? I usually don't know how to answer that question because the amazing thing to me is how wonderful winter nights are. Don't get me wrong, the seemingly endless days of summer are absolutely wonderful, but there is something special about winter nights. After the hustle of spring, the break neck pace of summer, and the countless To Do's of fall, the down time of winter is a welcome respite. To me there are few things more comforting after a day out in the cold and weather, than coming home to a fire in the stove, enjoying a hot dinner and relaxing with a book or a movie under a blanket on the couch.
But there is something more to it than simply relaxing by the fire. There is a sense of rightness about hunkering down in the winter. Outside in the hills, the bears are hibernating in their dens, the rodents are snug with their food stores in their holes, and the birds have flown south seeking warmer weather. The mountains are very quiet and still this time of year, blanketed by a protective layer of snow. In the yard, the garden is long done (save for the carrots that continue to grow under a thick layer of mulch). The honey bees are snug in their clusters, eating honey and keeping the queen warm. The hens are roosted close on the perch, fluffing their down and tucking in their feet to keep warm. It seems only natural that as things slow down outside, we ought to slow down too.
Winter is a time to look back, take stock and plan for next year. A time to reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. It's a time to enjoy the fruits of your labors, breaking out whatever jams and preserves you've put up in the summer and fall, and being thankful for the all the effort you put into cutting and splitting firewood. It's a time for reading and learning from others, sharing stories and catching up on little things put off when the days were too nice to be inside.
Maybe one of the best things about winter is planning all the things you'll do when it's nice out, but knowing you don't have to do any of them right now.