James D. Riordan and his family, taking advantage of a...

James D. Riordan and his family, taking advantage of a snowfall, go on a hike in the woods of Amesbury, Massachusetts in December. Credit: James D. Riordan

During my childhood years in New Hyde Park, winters were marked by snow -- how much we got and on what day it fell. I always prayed for a weekday snowfall versus a weekend because it usually meant a snow day. I’d listen to WOR/710 AM radio in my mother’s kitchen as the school closings were announced, holding my breath until I heard "St. Anne’s in Garden City . . . closed today." That meant freedom – call it a 24-hour "get out of jail for free" card. I would bundle up and look like the Michelin man for the mile walk through the blowing snow along Stewart Avenue to the Garden City Country Club and . . . Devil’s Hill! The thrills that Devil’s Hill delivered were worth it. To my young eyes, it looked like Long Island’s answer to the Matterhorn.

When I was a teenager, winter also meant playing pickup hockey on Hubble’s Pond at the Garden City Golf Club. I was never a great skater, but I loved the whole ritual, from lacing up my skates to firing a slap shot. The games were a mixture of chaos and collisions, including one that once sent me for stitches to a hospital -- in a police car -- after I split my head open on the ice.

I didn’t ski until my college years in Boston, but once I experienced the thrill of downhill, I loved it. First, weekend trips to Killington, Vermont, then renting a nearby ski house and finally discovering skiing out west in Colorado during my 20s and 30s. The Rockies have a way of making you forget skiing in the East. Some years, we’d save money by not skiing here at all and then go out west for a week.

In my 40s, winter started losing its boyhood fascination for me. Commuting to Manhattan by car to call on customers in storm after storm had me thinking that enough is enough. But when I purchased my first boat in the summer of 1999, winter took on a new meaning. It became the off-season from sailing and was a painful deprivation for the seven months the boat sat on dry land.

For the past 15 years, however, winter has taken on yet another meaning. It’s become a time of rest, of rejuvenation – a time away from the physical work and responsibilities that dominate the three other seasons. Winter means no weekly mowing of the lawn or maintaining the gardens, which lie dormant, awaiting spring’s return.

Now, winter means I put away the outdoor furniture, cover the pool, bring in firewood and catch up on other pursuits. My yard takes on an alluring beauty with the starkness of leafless trees, brown grass and open vistas. The view across my neighbor’s field from my second-floor, writing-room window is peaceful and captivating. Canadian geese by the hundreds gather there, while winter’s resident birds devour sunflower seeds at my feeders. The whole scene begs me to appreciate this quiet time and enjoy the respite from the other seasons.

I work hard these days to listen to the voices of the season that whisper quietly in my ears. They say relish this moment and drink in as much as you can. I see the crocuses are beginning to burst through the thaw . . .

Expressway writer James D. Riordan.

Expressway writer James D. Riordan. Credit: Alice Riordan

Reader James D. Riordan lives in Old Westbury.

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