My Invincible Summer Guide (for this winter).

snow beach

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
— Albert Camus, The Stranger  


This winter is Serious. For those of you living anywhere near me: I share your shivers and disbelief. The darkness, cold, and desolation of an Ontario winter tests my psyche every year. This year is extra fierce.


Here’s what’s inspiring me right now:

Helios
I heard one of these tracks on Songza and promptly purchased the album. It’s on repeat when I write. There’s one track that starts with the sounds of a thunderstorm, and this always makes me stop, look out the window, and then remember that it’s February and I’m in Toronto, in a deep freeze.


Cashmere
I wear it every day like a uniform. I have a cashmere poncho that I use as a kind of writing blanket/shawl, and I layer that on top of my cashmere pullover. You know what they say: if you can’t sit in the sunshine, wear cashmere.


Bose headphones
Sound-cancelling. They look so dorky but they are cashmere for my ears. I flick a little switch, a green light goes on, and I am instantly in peace. Sometimes I write with Helios on repeat, and sometimes I just luxuriate in the silence.


The Tools
Thanks to Berkley Brady for sending me the link to these guys. They have a good podcast, too. The first chapter in this book outlines a really effective tool to work with creativity and fear. It’s called “Reversal of Desire.” I’m using it, along with the final tool in the book – the one called “Jeopardy” – just about every day this winter.


The Desire Map
I’ve been doing this for the past three years, since I did Danielle LaPorte’s Fire Starter Sessions. The gist of it is simple: get straight on how you want to feel, then do more of the things that make you feel that way. Also: don’t do so much stuff that doesn’t make you feel that way. *Note: For more about The Desire Map and how my whole incredible team is using it this year, read this.


The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Still the most important book on my writing table. I read a page or two every morning.


Jillian Michaels
It’s way too cold and icy to go out for a run. Jillian’s DVDs keep me sane. I own them all. I recommend Kickbox FastFix if you just want to sweat for 20 minutes a day and get some exercise, and Total Body Revolution if you want to change your metabolism and/or lose weight. I also listen to her podcasts every Friday. I’m seriously devoted. (By the way, does anybody reading this know her radio producer, Janice Ungaro? If you do, email me!)


Bolt Fresh Bar
This is only in Toronto – sorry everybody else reading this. Their Lemon Tart smoothie (made with lemon, coconut, cashews, dates, and pink salt) is almost an equivalent to sunshine.


Horses
I’ve never been what you call a horsey person: of course I’ve always thought horses were beautiful, but they always seemed unapproachable to me. In January, I brought my team to Horse Spirit Connections to work with the insightful Jenn Schramm for our team retreat. I learned some important lessons about how to be myself from a horse named Thor. I don’t even know how else to explain it, except to say that now when I’m in a bind or have a decision to make, I ask myself, “What would Thor say?” and the answer is always there for me. Read this to learn more about equine therapy.


Airbnb
Planning trips has always been my go-to when it’s cold. It’s my thing: I always like to have a suitcase packed for the next great adventure. For Ryan’s March Break this year, we’re going to Florida, and staying in an awesome little art deco style condo in Miami. If you don't have an airbnb account yet, get one!


Jigsaw puzzles
It’s very soothing to make the little pieces fit together properly. After spending the day writing – aka suspended in mid-air with no certain answers – puzzles help keep my head in place, and it doesn’t numb me out like watching Nashville. (Not that I don’t love watching Nashville.)


What are you doing to find your internal sunshine this winter?

xo,

Sarah Selecky

Writing: a powerful probiotic.
In the spotlight: Heather Debling

11 comments

Dreaming of our little paradise on Isla Mujeres, Mexico does wondrous things for this winterlogged soul.
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Great list, Sarah, thanks! I needed this too - I live in Prague, and we've actually had less snow than usual this year, but things get pretty bleak here in the winter in any case. I have two things to add: The first is my drawing/writing music of the winter: http://crimeleague.bandcamp.com/album/daily-routines (you can listen to the tracks there on Bandcamp) - full disclosure, the artist is my husband, but I'm not trying to promote him, this really is my "on repeat" creative activity album and would be even if I didn't know the guy :) Good music is like auditory soul vitamins when it's nasty outside! Colour - surrounding myself with colour definitely helps. It's good for my psyche to keep things vibrant during the winter months, wearing lots of colourful clothes, painting bright things, etc... even my coffee cup is colourful.
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Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

What a great list, Sarah! I shrunk my cashmere sweater last winter (I don't know how it got in the laundry instead of the drycleaning) and I've been on the search for an affordable replacement ever since. After reading your post, I'm thinking 'expense be "&$%*ed". Aside from books, jigsaw puzzles are my go-to stress reliever too. And I'm s-o-o- jealous that you can get such a great smoothie. Lemon! Love it! P.S. I'm checking out several of the links you listed - thanks for the tips.
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I suppose I can call myself fortunate. I live many hours from Toronto where snow filled roads are often closed for days on end. We do not complain when a skiff of snow covers the landscape and roads. Every year I embrace winter. We have a large rescue dog who must be exercised twice daily. Despite the wind whipped snow and fierce aggressive temperatures, we must wrap our bodies in lined jeans, parkas, -30 footwear, hats, hoods and face covering, and double-lined mittens. We try to do something fun outside. For us it is wearing snowshoes and hunting for evidence of animals (tracks, feathers, actual animals like deer, winter songbirds, snowy owls, and wild turkeys). Even when we hunkered down for first three and then six continuous days this past January, every day was an opportunity to reflect upon creativity. Doing yoga kept me supple for daily opportunities of shovelling. Commitment to daily meditation allowed me to embrace the imaginary blue sky and sunshine. I generated many juicy ideas for some pretty decent free writing. I started a series of watercolour paintings of whimsical frogs. After those six days 'stuck', we noticed a halo appeared around the elusive sun. We were still blessed with frigid temperatures but there was hope. Hope to wake up healthy and not lacking anything. We still had sufficient fire wood. Dribbles of milk stood in the jug. And the roads around us eventually became cleared by our saviours driving road graders. By the time we found ourselves at the grocery store, all the one percent, skim, two and homo milk were gone. We laughed at the new-found delight in tossing four litres of chocolate milk into our grocery buggy. We could barely await opportunities to try out some mocha recipes. We can gripe at the pain of enduring winter and in turn hate half of our lives or we can view the season as an opportunity at a new life performance, one in which we can begin a love affair with cashmere and sculpting a snow drift with snow angels.
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Summer is easier, but I love winter. The cool pastel light, the heavy soft clothes, the lack of mosquitoes, the holidays! There are infuriating elements that do make me want to cry, but I find Dec-Feb is a pretty creative time for me. One snowy night with a full moon and the world becomes a fairy tale/foreign planet hybrid full of sci-fi ideas. It's also easier for me to write about weather in winter because I'm so attentive to the physical when I'm outside. So I guess my internal sunshine is writing sci-fi during the winter, drinking hot tea, watching Christmas specials even in Feb, and aromatherapy (geranium, cinnamon, pine). Also, thanks for the introduction to Keith Kenneth!
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Yes it is a long cold winter this year having started in November and this morning Toronto had yet another snowfall. So I pick up the phone and chat with my sister in Mumbai. We exchange news about the weather. Makes us feel so good. When I write at my dining table I look out of the window at the snow piled up all over the street and somehow I feel warm inside, crazy isn't it? Guess I am thankful to be in a warm house. I read a few pages of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" and also write for 10 minutes from your prompts. I enjoy them so much that I forget the snow and cold. Thanks, Sarah.
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Debbie, Long ago I made an intention that I could always afford cashmere. I repeated it like a mantra and you know what? Two weeks later I was in Frenchy's (a famous bargain shop in Nova Scotia) where the clothing is all sorted by type. All the pants in one bin, all the shirts in another. I decided to go through the sweater bin by touch. I closed my eyes and rummaged through the dead acrylic and scratchy wool until my hands touched heaven. Yes, there was a BRAND NEW CASHMERE sweater in the sweater bin. Do you want to guess how much it was? It was five dollars! FIVE DOLLARS!! Good luck finding a beautiful cashmere sweater for yourself. It's totally worth it no matter what the price. :) ox Cecilia
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Thanks Sarah for pointing me to Helios. I've been on the lookout for a new music scape lately. Wonderful music to fill the lull--and what a romp of feeling!
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Ooooooh, I loved this post. I have been craving, longing, hurting for sunshine and warmth this winter. Thanks for the helios and cashmere tips. I curl up in blankets and make huge mugs of steaming tea. I also did the opposite last weekend - I made my husband take me for mexican food - a salt-rimmed glass filled with a slushy lime margarita and freshly cut salsa. It did the trick. Tasting summer helped me remember that it will indeed come around again. I have also been craving time in a sauna - thanks for reminding me to actually DO these sunshiney things and not just sit there and long for them. Canadian winters are too long for longing!
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Maria Coveou

I live very far away from you. In Athens, Greece it's like spring right now (even though I don't think it will last for very much longer). I can't even imagine how your winter feels like. Here it rarely snows so I always envy the winter of other countries, but I suppose for you it must be intolerable at times...same way the scorching sun in the summer is intolerable to me. I don't like the heat, but this mini spring in the midst of winter we are having I am really enjoying; it's making me go out and do things. I am always amazed at the psychological effect the sun has on people, myself included. I wish I could pack a bunch of sun rays and send them your way to light up your dark winter....hang in there Sarah!! The Helios (Greek word for 'sun,' in fact) will rise again...xxx
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Maria Coveou

Also, if you enjoy Helios and it helps you while you are writing, then you should definitely try the Icelandic band Sigur Rós (it means 'Victory Rose'). Their music is very evocative. I've been to Iceland and their music feels like flying over Icelandic landscapes...very bizarre and amazing. Their new site: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/, their old site: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/news/, their YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/sigurros Albums I recommend: 'Ágætis Byrjun' (1999) 'Takk' (2005), 'Hvarf-Heim' (2007) and 'Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust' (2008). I hope you like them!
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