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DOT'S BEAT: How To Survive Another Winter



by Dot Helling

Vermonters pay a price for living in this wonderful place — winter! When the snow fall is good and arctic blasts don’t bottom out our temperatures, Vermont can be heavenly for skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and snowshoers. But how do we maintain our sanity when the conditions rollercoaster and are not so good? Or if you’re not an outdoors person?

First, light up your life. If you want to pay the electric bill you can illuminate the neighborhood as do Bob and Bonnie Bertolini starting with Halloween lighting, moving into Christmas and beyond. On a smaller scale, string some lights on your porch or deck or along your walkway, solar-powered is good, or fill your yard with brightly colored prayer flags. Global Gifts on Langdon Street has a great collection for sale. If you have a connection you can get a string of blessed prayer flags from Trijan Buddhist Center in Northfield.

Wear bright clothes. This can be as simple as fun patterned Bogs boots, a fluorescent ski jacket or a crazy hat. My post office friends Irma and Philip Chastenay sport an assortment of hats. My favorites are the bright pink and sparkly hats worn by Irma in warmer weather. Philip dresses for winter as a Nanook with a big hood and orange accents. Bob from Barre sports a collection of superhero hats and sweatshirts including Spiderman, Batman and Superman. Another hit are bright colorful umbrellas launched during snowstorms. Or bedazzle yourself with wild jewelry like Lisette Paris does. Smiling dog lover John Hopkins plans to wear his Christmas Pug vest all winter.

Layer up. Get used to taking extra time to put it all together and then more time undressing every time you enter a heated house or car. For those of us who run or ski in the cold, it becomes an artform of figuring out what to wear. Most importantly, get yourself a good underlayer, some good gloves and footwear, a scarf or neck gaiter, and wear a hat. As we have all heard from our elders, 80 percent of our body heat is lost through our uncovered heads.

Watch your step. Don’t try the Lola Aiken technique and wear fashionable high heel boots when you walk downtown. Get some good flat, treaded soles and a pair of ice trackers for slick days. The latter come in all sorts of flavors at Onion River Sports, from easy walkers to top shelf mountain climbers. If you’re rickety and it’s tricky footing outside, get yourself a ski pole or cane with a good tip. Be extremely careful stepping onto steps and porches. Property owners try to put down mats or shovel, sand and salt, or even mix sand into paint, but it’s hard to protect against icy conditions. And don’t forget your pets. The salt hurts their paws so walk them on snowy surfaces or get them a set of boots, available in town at Onion River Sports, Guy’s Farm and Yard and Quirky Pet. Also, protect your pets from the discomfort and weight of snowballs. My dog Smoochie would come out of the woods carrying an extra 25 lbs. in snowballs stuck to her feet and underbelly. A closer haircut and an application of Pam just before we struck out (so as not to be licked off) was the solution. This secret works well on paws and coat.

If not into fitness or the outdoors, do some music jamming, volunteer work or other indoor activities to feel good and help others. You can read to kids as part of Everybody Wins!, volunteer for Lost Nation or at the library, help the homeless, volunteer for the food banks, get involved in politics or with a non-profit such as the Nature Conservancy, Common Good, Magic House or the Green Mountain Film Festival, to name a few. Volunteer to work with the Montpelier Indoor Rec and Aquatics Task Force to build a year-round, indoor, multi-use, affordable and financially sustainable downtown recreational facility. The options are endless. You can build a snow sculpture, skate in front of the State House or shovel walks and roofs for your physically challenged neighbors.

Spend time with friends. Join a book club. Have dinner theme parties. Light a bonfire. Watch movies. Read. Go to the theater or a museum. Get away for a day to Burlington, Montreal or Boston. Chase and trap a “house mouse.” There are plenty around this year including the devil who recently chewed into my special piece of pecan pie. Find ways to laugh, as simple as reading the Montpelier Police Log, which includes entries such as these: “There was a suspicious event somewhere in the City.” “Property was lost or found somewhere in the City.” “Someone was sitting on the Cummings Street Bridge.” “On East Montpelier Road, a large pothole was reported.”

Finally, if all else fails, take off for sunny climes. If you can’t afford an island vacation or don’t like beaches, try an arboretum or a spa day, or a Chill gelato. By the time you read this, this Colorado snowbird will have flown the coop to work and ski with my sister in the Rockies. I wish you all a healthy and productive winter. I’ll be back with more of “Dot’s Beat” in the spring. Happy New Year!