Winter is no mere shift of background scenery. It is an elemental force to be reckoned with. When we put storm windows up and snow tires on, lay in firewood, wrap water pipes and stock up on vitamin pills, we are forearming ourselves against attack by a tough adversary. Winter at its worst can still knock us for a loop — cancelling meetings, grounding planes, closing schools, stalling cars and ripping electric wires. It injects drama into our lives and jolts us out of petty preoccupation with tax forms, computer games, lipstick shades and hockey scores. It is a yearly refresher course in brass-tacks reality. It clears the head and stiffens the spine.

However, if character-building were all Winter had to offer me, I’d probably head for Lotus Land, given a choice. What makes me willing to put up with Winter is my consuming passion for coziness — that blissful state of being snug and safe and warm, bundled up in a fleecy bathrobe…

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