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A Lovely January

By Brooke Benton

I get a small chuckle from the collective conscious that hits right after Christmas in the form of pining for springtime. It seems the only winter we want is the couple of weeks around Christmas, the pretty stuff, the stuff that enhances the festive scene. But right after that? No more snow, no more cold, no more dreary dark—fast forward me to sunshine.

Is this a matter of not wanting to live in the moment? Or is this our advanced nature as God’s children—that we want to progress? That once we’re done with one thing, we’re ready for the next?

Or are we just a fickle people?

Or is it just that this time of year is the epoch of our doldrums?

Or even this: is it that there are too many catalogs arriving thick and glossy with Easter dresses and resort casual in a variety of corals? And is that too much for the snow-bound to take?

I get that January is the month of forward thinking, and goal setting and beginning anew, but the wintry aspect of its inherent place on the calendar doesn’t really lend itself to that “getting out and doing things” mindset. So why do we? Is it the changing of a new year? Or is it really that people are SO DONE with the excess of the holidays that “slimming down” body and soul is just man’s next step?

Truth is, I don’t know. But I don’t want to go on a diet.

(I don’t want to go ANYWHERE.)

Still, I’m curious your thoughts on why you think we do this. And if we don’t love January for the deep and unchanging light outside, the permanent gray, why do we love January? Or how can we? For goals and new beginnings?

Since I’m not quite ready for that, and as I stare at the abysmal looking outside, and feel cold in my bones just from seeing the snow and a sleety rain that’s just beginning, I am grateful for the warmth of a hot piece of bread and a bowl of French onion soup next to it, steaming right up onto my cheeks.

So that’s what it is for me. Today. Soup. Soup is something I like about January.

What about you? What redeeming qualities can you cull up from the depths of winter? Or what is your BIG MOTIVATION that makes you move forward?

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

33 thoughts on “A Lovely January”

  1. The root of January is "Janu" which is also the root word for the Janus Figure. The statue was part of Celtic culture. There are a myriad of interpretations, but one is that serves as a metaphor of sorts that embodies the idea of looking in two directions at the same time. The idea of looking back at the previous year and then glancing forward into the upcoming year with endless possibilities and unfolding days is a magical and nostalgic stirring of the heart and mind.

    As Emily Dickinson so eloquently states, "Dwell in Possibilities." The dwelling is often times a space which requires some silence, and perhaps even a little gray in the day. I do love how exposed everything is right now where I live. Bare branches and trees. The green will submerge into the light once again. I know this because God created this world with such a perfect touch.

    And yes, soup is the perfect balm for the soul on a winter day. Thanks for the reflection, Brooke. Lovely.

  2. I am trying to live in and enjoy the present. So that means January and the cold and the rain/snow right now.

    I think January's redeeming quality is that it make me appreciate spring and summer. Just like the hottest days of summer make me appreciate fall and then winter. (I admit my favorite seasons are spring and fall.)

    I'm trying to enjoy this time when I don't feel like I should be outside doing something(garden, lawn, park, whatever.
    I can sit on the couch with my kids and watch a movie, or read out loud. I can bake without overheating the house. I can eat soup. I can curl up with a good book. I can build legos and play dolls with my children. I can spend some time thinking about my life, my blessings. I can watch the snow while drinking a cup of hot chocolate.

    January is good.

  3. It's not the snow, the cold, or the January that I am anxious to abandon. It's the unchanging light outside and the permanent gray you describe. Every winter I find myself sinking deeper into the misery of a gray, dead, winter. I feel the heavy, gray sky like a weight on my shoulders, and when it hangs above the dead, gray landscape, I begin to feel dead and gray. I spend my winters with every light in my house burning bright trying to stave off the yearly bout of SAD. My kids love to tease me because I drive with the interior lights on in the car on cloudy winter days. My own little traveling sunshine.

    I feel so lucky this year. We've had bitterly cold temperatures that are far below normal for us, but along with them we have had bright, sunshiny days that are also not normal for our winters. With the sun shining, I don't give a flying fig how cold or snowy it is. Just let me have that glorious light and I will be happy to live right here in January.

  4. I don't like winter. I hate the cold and the gray and the being trapped inside. The holidays are a distraction from it (especially because they are "supposed" to wintry), but once they're over and we're left with just winter, I'm ready for spring.

    December is a month of fun. January's a letdown.

  5. I love walking on the thin, hollow, crispy, crackly ice at the edge of the gutters. I love being able to wear big, cozy sweaters. I love snuggling down under my down comforter. I like walks in the crisp morning air (or strollerblades, if it's not icy or snowy) when it's so quiet outside. I like baking. I like corn chowder with sourdough toast (with real butter on it). I love salted caramel hot chocolate. I like that the sun doesn't wake me up. My kids love camping on a heater vent with their blankets wrapped around them. I love watching big, fat snowflakes fall. I love seeing snowmen around town. I love skiing and watching my kids learn to ski and snowboard. I like tubing down hills. I love seeing Orion in the sky.

  6. I was pondering this very same thing – looking for inspiration and that spark in the new year that I usually feel.

    I'm from Seattle, where it's gray, raining and moody for months on end. It can really give one a chance to contemplate and be creative.

  7. I think the sense of renewal and drive to make resolutions is part of what carries me through the January/February dreariness. And the quietness of these months enables me to reflect and set in place habits that will hopefully last through the busier outdoor months.

    I do love winter food. Soup is wonderful.

  8. For me January is the quiet between the frantic holiday season and the frantic tax season. I'm not an accountant, but my hubby's career sometimes throws monkey wrenches in our tax returns, so January is my "gathering time" when I start collecting all those measly pieces of paper that will make tax time either drudgery or a blood-pressure raising experience. The weather outside just reflects the chill I get when I see that IRS logo.

    But I do love a good soup and that can only be appreciated best in winter. Thank heaven for seasons!

  9. Thank you Strollerblader and Melissa Y. for helping me see the good in January! I'm not a huge fan of winter, but I took a group of girls sledding yesterday and that helped (see photos here http://bit.ly/4SQIk7.) It's interesting how I can be so down about winter, but then when I start trying to find something good about it, there really are many things I enjoy.

    One thing I like about January is the fresh start, the whole idea of newness that gives me a chance to look forward instead of back. To me, that IS January. January is also cleaning out cupboards, freshening up my home, and giving things a facelift–painting or redecorating or adding something handmade.

    January can be good if we look hard enough!

  10. I hated the snow before Christmas and am thrilled with it now, so no pining away for Spring here. I'm also always thrilled during January that even though it's one of the coldest months of the year, the daylight hours are increasing instead of decreasing. Somebody planned that well.

    I also love the whole New Year's Resolution thing. I love any excuse to start my goals . . . AGAIN, but January seems to give me the biggest "umph."

  11. I love the analogy of looking in two different directions. After all the hoopla (no matter how I "simple" I swear the keep the holidays) I always enjoy the uncluttered house and that sense of starting over. That said, I can only stand January for about two weeks and then I pine for summer as well. I was returning something at Gap Kids yesterday and my eyes were in over stimulated with all the brightly colored resort wear. I wanted to snatch it all up and take an exotic vacation somehwhere. Anywhere that is not grey. Apparently my 'trick' to shake things up in the mid-winter post holiday blues is to have a baby. I've had a boy in January, February and another due in the first week of March.

    I still question who lobbied the schools in New England years ago for the brilliant idea of getting a whole week off in February called mid-winter break. The ski resorts in Vermont or the resorts in Florida?

  12. Salted caramel hot chocolate? Oh My! Not having heard of such a delight, I had to google for a recipe and found this one. This very well could be the "High" in my "High/Low" of the day today. Thanks!

  13. (ps: the words "this one" in my post are actually a link…though it's hard for me to tell because the color is so close to the regular font) ♥

  14. I'm a cold-weather transplant from Hawaii and I make a choice every winter to pine away from October to April for warm weather. Some might buck up and go skiing. For those who do, I wish them nothing but soft kleenexes to clutch in their frozen digits. I have yet to wrap my mind around the idea that humans actually live outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. I'll stick with pining away, staying indoors as much as humanly possible and signing my daughter up for hula lessons.

  15. Soup, bread, tea – these are my fav foods for winter! I always say I love winter and the snow. But I don't go out much more than to venture onto my back patio a couple times a day to fill the bird feeder and watch the pups. I have been home for 2 days now, and it is fine with me! Never a lack of things to do – even dwadle some!

    But the light thing does get to me. I want the pretty snow and the sunshine – i know….. i usually do a lot of needlecraft this time of year and studying. Been doing a lot of cleaning out now too so I don't have to do it is good weather.

    When it gets bad I look at Seed Catalogs and watch "endless Summer". Last year when my DH brought it home I think it maybe saved my life, but at least my sanity.

    DH bought curtains for the LR. I have not had curtains since 1979. I feel a closed in, even tho we are warmer. Today even he opened them up to see real light!

    February tho is my hard month. No matter how many days you tell me it has – it is the longest month of the year.

  16. I hate cold, so my dislike of January pretty much begins and ends there. A little bit of snow is fun, but I hate being cooped up inside all the time.

    More than, that, though, I hate the long hours of darkness. January, though, isn't so bad in that respect because I can at least tell myself that the nights are getting shorter, even if it doesn't seem like it yet.

    In my defense, I feel the same around July/August. I hate the heat as much as I hate the cold. I need to move to the coast, where it's cool and breezy all year long. 🙂

  17. I love January and February because they're my favorite months to read. I didn't realize that till I started keeping track of my reading and discovered I read by far the most books at the beginning of the year. I've also learned that I need to get outside everyday, no matter the weather, for a long walk.

    I save up all my complaining for the weather in July and August, so I can't complain about January and February.

  18. I was just writing in my journal last night about how much I love January. After the busyness and exhaustion of December and having everyone home for two weeks (two weeks of video game playing and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy), I was so happy on Monday to put away my Christmas decorations and then savor my tidy, uncluttered, QUIET house. January feels lighter, sparer, and more peaceful to me than the other months. During January I am more contemplative and still, in less of a hurry to get things done. I curl up on the couch with a book, make soups, set goals, go for walks in the snow with my dog on cold, quiet mornings, and spend the month savoring new beginnings and taking stock. January is good for my soul.

  19. I'm one who gets blue without the sun. Living in Colorado was a solution, it may be cold and snowy, but the sun shines. Alas, we're in the NE now, stuck in the grey muck. This is scientifically proven – low vitamin D can cause a depressed mood. Where do you get vitamin D? From exposing your skin to the sun!

    The problem with January and New Years Resolutions is that trying to eat more fruits and veggies is hard when they are out of season. I'm all for changing resolutions to Easter. The whole idea of renewal works better with the holiday and the growing season.

  20. January – and February – are pretty good in my home country of New Zealand – but not so good where I live now. I think you are right about the lack of sunshine – plus the cold!

  21. I enjoyed this post.
    I think I used to really hate January-s. I don't so much anymore; I may even like them.
    Leslie's was my favorite comment from the tutorial on the origins of Janu– love that looking forward/looking back–to the Emily Dickinson quote. For me that is what January has become: the month of reflection and dwelling on the possibilities. I feel like I have a whole brand new year ahead of me. January is a deep, long breath after Christmas. I expect it to be cold and dark and even a little sluggish. As a transplant to the East coast, I love all the trees but they can get a little suffocating at times, and I actually love the bare trees of January. Especially against a pale sky. After all the indulgence and opulence and decoration of December, I love the stark, bare-ness of a January landscape. I love all the cozy sweaters, soup, hot chocolate, and even the grumbling about the cold!
    That said, after January and before it starts to green up and warm up… I lose my patience with the cold and quickly develop a mad case of spring fever…

  22. This was interesting because here in northern California we don't have that grey/ cold thing. It is a great month because things start to bloom and the days still are sunny and clear but spring is in the air. I grew up in Utah so I remember that weather but not in the context of adulthood. I never thought of it like that before.

  23. I think I belong in San Diego or Hawaii.

    I don't need the cold to appreciate the warmth. I am eternally solar powered. A perfect 68-70 degrees with a nice warm breeze is my kind of life.

    I get much more done when I'm warm. I would totally just lay down and go to sleep (freeze to death) if I was lost in the snow. Christmas is the only good thing about winter.

    Plus, I don't like inclement weather forcing me to bow to it's whim. With perfect, sunny weather I can do as I please. When we were little we lived in UT. My parents used to bake all these goodies when we lived in UT. We asked once why they didn't do that as often. They explained that in UT during winter… there was NOTHING to do but be trapped in a house. It could be why all the babies in the ward were all born around the same time each year too.

  24. I was just thinking about this last night while reading the poem "Summer Poem" by Mary Oliver.

    I just moved to Arkansas from Arizona, and we are now experiencing the coldest winter Arkansas has had in more than 20 years (perfect timing!)… my blood is thin, and I'm c-c-c-cold. So, while reading this poem, I thought it was kind of nice to be transported to summer.

    That was until I realized that what I liked about the poem was the first lines: "Leaving the house//I went out to see"…Which is something I wasn't doing. I am not seeing what is around me now. So, even though it is cold and a bit dreary, I suppose I'll do more looking now.

    Thanks for the post. 🙂

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  26. I live in a pretty much perfect climate here in Northern California, but January still feels cold. (All things are relative, right?) I do love this month, though, because I like the idea of change and possibilities and a fresh page to open.

    Starting on a new page in life is a great opportunity. And writing 2010 is even better, because it means the start of a whole new decade. Now, that can really set a girl dreaming!


  27. Tonight I was sweating watching the news, which showed the huge cold snap in England and then cut to snowy landscapes in the States. A cold Christmas is totally foreign to me, particularly now I've relocated to very tropical north Queensland, Australia.

    So while soup doesn't factor in my January musings, I love the brightness of each summer day so early in the New Year, which for me shines with hope for the 300 plus days yet to come. Thanks for the view to your January too – since reading this post I'm looking more fondly at the frost in my freezer as I grab out an icecream!

  28. I generally don't do winter well. I am not a cold weather, dark night loving person. Jauary and February are struggling times for me. I also think the house looks sad once the Christmas decorations come down.

    I look forward to spring with the longer, lighter days, and the flowers starting to appear. I am really a spring person, it is my favourite time of year.

    Always I enjoy winter foods though, it feels comforting to make soups and stews a lot. I feel I am doing a good job at mothering when I pile up hot, steaming food on the table when there is snow and ice outside.

    One of my goals this year (and I only have 2 anyway) is to make as many birthday presents and cards as possible to both save money and to make things a touch more personal. January finds me inundated with birthdays for family and friends so this will keep me busier than usual, and hopefully the time will pass more quickly.


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