It's January 5th, and I'm officially over winter. The tree and sparkle that warmed my house have since been packed away, and that "fresh start with the New Year" vibe has already worn off. I'm left with the winter blahs and approximately 92 days, 17 hours, and 55 minutes until spring (but who's counting).
I'm not completely adverse to the season. It's just the thought of walking outside without long underwear, fleece socks, and a thick coat sounds fabulous right now. (On the positive side, the extra layers do hide the "fluff" I've gained as a result of too many Christmas cookies.) I'm a lemonade-making girl, however, and decided to comprise a list of ways to survive the cabin fever that has already crept upon me.
1) Explore a new state park, conservation area, or recreation area- Although I complain about the winter wardrobe, I'd still rather be outside. Missouri's rolling hills, riverways, rocky terrain, and endless trails are worth conquering despite frigid temperature.
Recently I've visited two places that truly exemplify my campaign to find #beautyinmybackyard: Young Conservation Area,and LaBarque Creek Conservation Area. Both CAs contain the LaBarque Creek watershed, a source of diverse plant and fish species the Missouri Conservation Department is striving to protect, with the help of organizations like Friends of LaBarque Creek, among many others.
Although the streams aren't flowing full and the foliage is deeply missed, there are many perks to winter hiking. No ticks, snakes, or mosquitos make winter adventures in the great outdoors a little less worrisome. Any aforementioned cookies are easily burned off when you climb the hills that cover both parks.
2) Go for a drive- I'm like the dog who wags his tail anytime someone grabs the keys to the truck. It's a chance at freedom, and I'm in! As a freelance writer, I need breaks from the solidarity of a home office.
One of my favorite drives is the Great River Road, especially at the confluence where bald eagles nest during the winter months. There are several museums to visit along the route from St. Louis heading north, giving you several opportunities to stretch your legs, learn something, and enjoy a warm viewpoint of this magnificent waterway. My family has enjoyed the National Great Rivers Museum, where you can pretend to drive a river barge, or see the real thing in action at the Melvin Price Lock & Dam. We are looking forward to a visit to the Audubon Center at Riverlands, where there are a supposed 1,300 graceful trumpeter swans to gaze upon (check my Instagram page for upcoming pics).
3) Show a little love- Nothing beats the winter blues quite like a warmed heart. Volunteering is a way to give back, and gain a world of joy. While it seems volunteering takes a huge commitment, there are several ways to help out without straining a time-starved schedule.
4) Do a little dreaming- As one who is addicted to travel, I'm constantly dreaming of our next adventure. When I want to stay snuggled up next to my fire, a mental escape is the next best thing. The Wide World of Wonder (www.) leads me to envision camping beneaths the redwoods, inhaling salty air, and climbing every mountain (cue Julie Andrews).
Surprisingly, I don't like aimless surfing. I much prefer to research with purpose, or to untether altogether. Being present with my loved ones trumps tech time, every time. My favorite tools for dreaming in an organized fashion include Instagram and Pintrest. The visual stimulation of Instagram inspires me to plan for our next trip, and the orderly arrangement of Pintrest bring purpose to my couch-cuddling lazy days.
My current dream goes something like this: camper, kids, dogs, (and hubs) in-tow, we set out in search of the world's tallest trees and rugged coastlines. I've setup a board to start dreaming, and I'll be sure to keep you posted when those dreams become a reality.
5) Finish that book, or home improvement project, or start planning for tax time- Okay, the third option sounds about as fun as a root canal without novocaine. The first two are actual to-do's on my list. When the weather limits or prohibits your ability to get outside and burn off steam, focusing on a put-off task can be a great way to recharge. Turn up the music really loud and rock those sweats while you feel good about checking something off your list.
I've been working on my novel, and have set a goal for a completed manuscript by next winter. I've joined some awesome writer's groups on social media. (There are several inspiring groups out there, really.) I've even started poking the publisher nests to see what stirs. The excitement is motivating.
The beauty in writing fiction is escapism. Each time I pick up where I left off, I'm instantly transported to another world. I'm no longer Mandy Hawkins... I'm the protagonist, the antagonist, and the awesome supporting characters that make my book come alive. Cabin fever doesn't exist when you're running through South American jungles, in a struggle to protect your life.
As for the home improvement projects: buying an old log cabin means a litany of fixes await us daily. Leaky pipes. Pesky squirrels that want to chew through your wooden house in order to nest. Wood burning stoves that house bird carcasses (a slightly traumatic incident for our daughter). Each day is an adventure here. When I go from the Pinterest board ideas to the reality of a completed project, I am highly satisfied and forget any symptoms of cabin fever I've been fighting.
What are the ways you fight the doldrums of winter? Do you have any favorite places to get outside and explore? What makes them special in this season? What are you dreaming of? I encourage you to get out there and make this winter great!
Born with a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always searching for new adventures and sharing those stories here.