Thanks to a slight tilt in the earth’s axis relative to the sun, winter is upon us in the Northwest. This means shorter days, many without any sun at all, many with very little sun, and precious few that are clear. For some people living here the winter weather can be very difficult, giving rise to a condition called seasonal affective disorder which results in depression and a general physical malaise. Some of these people choose to leave the Northwest, picking sunnier climes like Arizona or Southern California. It’s understandable. The weather here can really suck.

But for the people like my wife and I, who stay here willingly, winter is a time of pleasure and even regeneration. At this time of year things seem to slow down, and after a summer and fall crammed with all manner of outdoor activities we turn inward. The bookstacks on our nightstands double in size with all the reading that has been postponed during the fine weather or has come in through Christmas gifts. The Scrabble board is set out in the kitchen with a perpetual series of games in progress, and Netflix is frequently summoned for catching up on series and movies we’ve been too busy to watch. It’s a quieter time and a time for reflection.

There’s a certain beauty at this time of year, when the arc of the sun is diminished. From the windows of our house, which sits on a ridge facing south, we can now see both the sunrise and the sunset, a treat that only lasts a few winter weeks. Tonight we watched as the western sky turned from gold to deep red to violet, and the Douglas firs at the edge of our property became finely etched silhouettes before dissolving into shadow, a view best enjoyed with a glass of Oregon pinot noir, I might add.

There’s also the beauty of Mt. Hood—our local volcano. It rises out of the Cascades to the east of Portland and seems to levitate on the horizon, dominating everything around it. In winter when the clouds part and the volcano comes out, the sight is especially beautiful and for me, at least, always a bit startling. When the flanks of the mountain are completely snow clad I could swear that it has somehow grown larger and closer to the city.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a good book waiting next to a warm fire. Happy winter and Happy New Year to you all.