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Stopping to Sense the Season

We, or maybe just I, often think of winter as a season for the dead. It’s cold, it’s dark - everything is dead or slumbering beneath the blanket of snow that envelops the Earth in its chill. But then the holidays arrive and remind me that winter, like every other season we have the pleasure to encounter, holds its own magic and delight, if we only stop to sense it.

We hear that phrase frequently throughout life - the one about stopping to smell the roses. The reminder to slow down and experience the little moments in life is a useful one. This is my spin on slowing down as well, to find the magic in the season with all our senses; to really engage with the present and appreciate the magic of its little moments.

This week we’re going to walk through my mini winter wonderland as I describe my favourite ways to sense the season. I’ll also issue you this challenge; As we lead up to the holidays, take a moment or an event and slow it down with all your senses - write about it, draw about it, express it however makes the most meaningful sense to you and capture the present of the moment with all your senses.

Sight - The Christmas Lights

In the darkening of a winter’s evening the lights of the Christmas tree cheerily glow with a twinkle. Ours are coloured lights from blue hues to red and green and bursts of yellow. The Christmas tree offers light and joy as the glow from the bulbs illuminates the ornaments adorning its branches. This year there are fewer balls on the tree; with two cats and one that is particularly mischievous, glass balls are still in the bins, wrapped in white tissue paper. My mother always gifted us a new ornament on Christmas eve as we were growing up, that way we would have a collection started when the time came for us to move on and out. There are personalized ornaments from our first apartment, nutcrackers, plush swans and a homemade die hard vent, juxtaposed with shatterproof balls for a bit of sparkle and traditional adornment. At the base of the stairs with the bannister wrapping up behind the tree, the lights highlight the grains in the dark wood and sprigs of the garland winding around the bannister. Crowning the tree is a sparkling silver star. Take a moment this holiday season to share in the visual beauty of the light.

Sound - Trills of Christmas Carols

From November 1st, when the radio stations switch to all day Christmas the carols ring in our ears. The sounds of classic Christmas songs lightens my steps, and I often find myself humming them unexpectedly all year round. Something about hearing them play on our record player, the quiet whir of the needle over vinyl as we turn up the volume to infuse our home with holiday cheer is heartwarming. Filling the space with familiar sounds is soothing. My husband and I began a tradition where each year, at the beginning of the Christmas season, we purchase a new Christmas record to help us get in the mood. We play them throughout the holidays for everything, from decorating and Christmas baking sessions, to cleaning and laundry. There’s always a little more jingle in my step when the carols play. The next time you hear the jingle of a bell, close your eyes and let the sound wash through you (unless of course you’re driving!).

Smell - Christmas Cookies

My mom always did an outrageous amount of Christmas baking. All month long there were delicious smells permeating the house, calling us together in the heart of the home, eagerly awaiting the tasty treats coming out of the oven. We had three ultimate cookie recipes in my house; the playdough cookies which we would dye different colours so we could create different holiday shapes in 3D, twisting candy canes together and adding adornments onto Frosty’s top hat, my Grandmother’s whipped shortbreads which remain a holiday must have to this day, as light and fluffy as the snowfall, and last, but not least, the sugar cookies made popular by the cousin cookie painting parties of yore. When a holiday scent hits you, take it in and let the memories of wonder and magic come flooding back.

Touch - Snow

This season may not be marked by new flowers or falling leaves, but the chill that nips at your nose and the first snowflakes to land on your tongue are their own world of magic. Stepping out into the bracing cold and trudging through snow makes me feel alive before the reality of shoveling comes crashing into the wonderland. Something about seeing a fresh snowfall, with no footprints feels divine. It is beautiful. I feel like I’ve lost that sense of magic in the snow, like we had as children, running out to be the first to step in it, make a snowman and plop down into its inviting fluff to make a snow angel. Up North, I have this vague memory from childhood of learning how to snowshoe; how to step and walk and turn and fall and get back up again. I can remember as a toddler, the snow being above my head and my dad shoveling pathways in the yard for the dog; not just a path shallow and down to the grass, but one with walls that came up to his knees, carved into the yard with a shovel and a snow float! We used to have such incredible rides in the shoe float up the snowbank when dad shoveled the driveway, or cleared a path to the door. The magic of childhood. If you get snow where you are, the next snowfall that permits, rush outside and make that snow angel. Leave your mark on the landscape of winter.

Taste - Clementines

I remember when my mom first told me about the tradition of giving oranges or clementines as Christmas gifts. The tradition harkens back to Victorian England, when fruits were hard to come by in the dead of winter, and expensive when they were available. Often a centerpiece at the Christmas dinner or gifts to the children they were precious and rare. Now I can’t go a Christmas without buying a crate of them and devouring the sweet fruit two at a time. The zest, sweet, juicy fruit fills the air, from peeling it to eating it, the taste is now synonymous with Christmas. My love of the orange and its association with Christmas extends beyond the clementine to the Terry’s Chocolate orange which has always made an appearance on Christmas day. This holiday season take a moment to enjoy the tastes of Christmas that mean the most to you.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays it can be easy to get caught up in the next event, the next dinner. Slow down this year and take it all in with all of your senses.

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