Make Winter Great Again

Tattoos, Swannies, nature jaunts and upbeat soundtracks... A few ideas to wrestle yourself from winter’s icy grip into a fair-weather mindset.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
—As You Like It (2.7.179–184)

You can’t argue with Shakespeare. Even in the sunny Bay of Plenty winter can be pretty bleak.

It’s cold, and rainy, and you can end up but with no other options than feeding your screen addiction with rationalised impunity. For me, this seems to always end with vegan propaganda on Netflix, which leaves me feeling anxious about my family’s carcass consumption, and then feeling worse because I know I’m too lazy to change. It’s enough to give anyone SAD.

As with a lot of life though, it’s about doing the right thing at the right time. You can make winter
great again, and do it without buying a season pass or going into sizeable debt for a trip to the islands. A lack of sun, short days, long nights and time indoors leads itself to a range of activities.

Like getting a tattoo. I like tattoos, they’re equally anecdotal and archaeological. They encapsulate time and character in a very particular way. Tribal, Celtic knots, bio-mechanical, Japanese, Sailor Jerry, owls, mandalas, “All who wander, are not lost” (there may be depth here, but it’s way over
my head unfortunately). A timeline in ink. They’re best used as a pictorial guide, identifying the
people who can help jump-start your car, point you in the direction of the nearest liquor store or recommend a daddy-issues therapist.

Winter’s a great time to get a tattoo — you’re not going to go swimming and scab it out, and you
can cover it up while it heals and no-one knows what’s up. I have a few tattoos, some bad and
some worse. The only publication they’re going to make it in is a travel warning about needles
in developing countries. So believe me when I say that tattoos, like big mistakes (and they can
be the same thing), are best made by the young.

Under thirty? Go for it, just stay away from the job-stoppers. There’s a reason all those emo SoundCloud rappers are depressed, and I would be as well, if I let a junkie scribble all over my
face. And remember that what’s cool today, is barbwire around a bicep tomorrow. Time is an
ever and always cruel mistress.

Over thirty? Try buying a pair of shoes that aren’t sneakers.

Not a needle fan? You don’t have to stay inside. Try immersing yourself in some geography
— big hills and valleys put problems in perspective. Trees and rivers feed back in a better way
than pixels. Researchers have found that just being outdoors in nature can improve your overall feelings of wellbeing and reduce anxiety. If you’re worried about the cold, buy a Swandri. The proper one, the long bushshirt. They’re expensive, but it’s an asset. Those Allbirds are cool, but if you’re
laying out some cash for NZ wool, pick something that’ll last for 30 years. Your kids will fight over
it once you’re gone.

Or make something. And then give it away. Double serotonin uptake, two for the price of one.
It doesn’t have to be big, even cooking something new works. If it’s a mixtape, try and avoid any
sad boi nonsense (sorry Morrissey, everything else British and anything with Lil’ in the title). Keep
to music from countries where the mean low temperature is more than 20 degrees. Upbeat as.

There’s a whole lot more you can do as well. Let’s not forget revisiting the family genealogy, visiting
an elderly relative or chasing a west coast swell.

Viva the cold.

By Sam Cummins
Illustration by Stephen Kirkby

First published in issue 9 (August/September 2018) of Our Place magazine.