How to keep your body, mind active through the long and dreary winter

Here’s one way to keep yourself busy outside during winter. Jeff and Mary Santos of Cricket Lane built a 40-by-60 foot skating rink in their yard for their five kids and neighborhood children to enjoy. From left: Hailey Cockroft, Kayla Gooch and Rachel Santos take a break during an afternoon skate. Courtesy photo

“Punxsutawney Phil” saw his shadow last week and for all of us who can easily suspend reality for the benefit of a Pennsylvania-based groundhog, that translates to six more weeks of winter.

Many folks revert back to our primordial ancestry during these colder and light-deficient months, as an attempt to satisfy our inner yearnings and instincts.

Library Notes

We seem to be myopically focused on eating and hibernating to pass the time while our bodies and mind are on idle, focused on the impending warmer temperatures and soul-awakening signs of spring.

For those of you who may interpret this as an edict from the “food gods” and a license to become a seasonal couch potato, you may decide to throw another stew in the crock pot, bake another batch of caramel-fortified turtle brownies, and rent seasons one through six of the Sopranos as a way to engage your body into the tastes and treats of the weekend.

There are, however, a group of folks who view winter as an opportunity for the living, or a way to extend the benefits of outdoor activities into a fourth season, not just wait until the thaw comes or the weather report has changed from including such terms wind chill to heat index. The activities of this group of people include such adventures as winter hiking the mountains of New Hampshire, ice fishing in Maine, even playing pick-up pond hockey at a local lake.

While I embrace the whole and holistic experience of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and playing ice hockey (yes I play hockey), I admit, hiking while wearing “crampons” to keep my feet from slipping from underneath my ungainly body and carrying 40 pounds of gear, all while donning my $300 cold weather hiking boots is not for me. The real truth is that these activities are of great interest for many people, even if I’d prefer to wait for mud season and T-shirt weather. However, I can’t imagine just sitting in the house during the winter, waiting to take my Dachshund, George, out for a walk or counting the days until the vernal equinox.

What I do for me is stay active, and I am offering that for most of us; it is good therapy to maintain our minds and bodies in reasonably good condition, even in the winter. Here are some great ways to keep your life full of fun and activities for the winter months. Don’t forget to go to the library and check out the collections concerning these and hundreds of other activities and topics. If we don’t have it on our shelves at the M G Parker Library, we will surely offer to borrow it on your behalf from another neighboring library.

* Take a walk in the woods: I find this both therapeutic for my mind as well as a decent workout for my muscles. Grab a dog, a friend, or even a few friends and head out for a nice long stroll. Stay as long as you like and put no demands on yourself.

* Enjoy a movie: Check your local listings for movie theaters, download a movie from one of several companies that now provide this service, or stop by the library to grab a DVD or two–it’s FREE at the library! Don’t forget the popcorn.

* Bake a cake or cookies with a younger cousin, sibling or child: You will be amazed at how much you learn about yourself as well as others when you spend time in the kitchen with them. The fruits of your efforts will bring a smile to everyone’s palate and a smile to their face.

* Curl up with a good book: Before the “technology boom,” that statement could be taken nearly literally; now with books served up at the library in electronic formats, downloads, CDs, and on portable-self-contained units called Playaways, there are many different ways to enjoy the latest fiction while relaxing on your couch.

* Spend a day antiquing: New England is a mecca for those who enjoy searching for the elusive million-dollar find from an attic clean-out of your Greataunt Sally’s home, or stumbling upon the Banana Splits lunchbox at an antique store — the exact one that you carried to your second-grade lunch room.

Whatever you decided to do, enjoy it, have fun, be safe, and stop by the library to access materials about your interests.

Dana Mastroianni, the director of the M G Parker Library, can be reached at 978-454-5474 or via e-mail.