It was snowing today in London. It’s enough to get excited about here if you’ve never seen real snow. I think this is a controversial opinion but my favourite season in Chicago was Winter. When I moved Winter was what I was most excited to experience properly because I love cold weather. My favourite kinds of days are when the sky is a completely clear icy blue and the sunshine is bright but mellow. The air is crisp and stings your face and everything seems fresh and vibrant. You get to bundle up in mittens, hats, scarves and coats and go for a walk in the park and it just gives me energy and massive jolts of serotonin.
My first couple of winters in Chicago though were mild with very little snow. I’d seen pictures of massive snowfalls that halted traffic and Lake Michigan all frozen over with steam rolling off of it like it was cursed with something magical and my reality was just a lot of rain and sort of cold weather. I was disheartened. But then one Thanksgiving the snow started, huge, soft, fat flakes falling from the sky and they just didn’t stop. I think the world is transformed after a long period of heavy snow. For a little while anyway you feel like you’ve been whisked away or that adventure is about to happen. Trees wear thick, soft white coats on all their branches, the ones with heavier snowfall bending down under the weight. Yes, I’ll admit that after a few days when it turns to ice and grey, brown slush it’s not so pretty but there are always a few hours where it’s all perfect. I loved sitting on the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket, holding a mug of hot tea watching the snow fall. It was the most cosy thing.
Perhaps that’s why I like winter, simply because I love to be cosy and it’s easier to be cosy when the days are cold and short. I loved watching movies with my cousins and my aunt, all curled up in our cosy sofa spots as a winter storm rolled by outside. There’s nothing better than having a fire on inside when it’s snowing outside. In Winter you can always get warmer no matter how cold it is but in Summer there’s only so much one can do, especially in 100% humidity heat, to keep cool. You’re a sticky, sweaty, grumpy mess waiting for the sun to go down so that you can feel like a normal human in the warm evening.
There were a number of new things I experienced in Chicago winter. Ice storms were the first. I came out the next morning and everything had an icy skin wrapped around it. It made the plants look almost ethereal but made for terrible walking and driving conditions. I fell over a lot because of ice during winter. Snow storms were also new. We had days off school because of snow and once I had to drive into school and a storm started. I was terrified driving 5 miles and hour and occasionally feeling the car just slide sideways instead of driving forward. It took me almost 2 hours to make the 40 min journey from my house to school, and this was in my all weather tires too. As scary as it was I can’t lie, it was super nice to be sat in my car watching the snow fall all around me.
Then there was the polar vortex on my last winter in Chicago. We had three days off from school because it was too cold to open. I don’t know what I was expecting, the whole city to come to a standstill I think. But the duration of the time it was beautiful sunny days. My downstairs neighbour and I drove out to Costco to do groceries. I cleaned my whole apartment and sat out in the garden. The lake was absolutely magical, and though life carried on around me it was still more silent and still than it usually is. I think it was the cold that I loved though. This real sting of the cold wind hitting you when you left your house. In London our winters are so mild, there’s no bulk to them so they are dreary and annoying. Before I could drive I took a bus and a train with a 15 min walk to get to walk and I was equipped with an arctic grade coat which meant I did not feel any of the cold except maybe on my nose. Walking those cold, frosty nights back to the station every day with music on was my unwind method after a long day of children needing my attention. It was the perfect calm.
The snow today reminded me of how much I miss Chicago at this time of year. It’s currently about 0 celsius here, which is cold for London when it comes to winter. I was just craving the minus 10 and below and lake wind chill that makes it almost too much to bear. There’s something in the kind of cold that awakens your senses and makes you feel alive. This snow here is already melted and turned into standard London grey mushy weather. January feels like it will never end, but there’s only one more week to go.