Hoi Yee: I was born and raised in a part of Canada where winters are cold and long. The icy weather never stopped me from taking walks outside. I wore furry boots and a coat that made me look like a walking sleeping bag because I loved the cold crispness. Breathing in the icy air is like drinking purified water. Cold air feels cleaner and even tastes better.
But the best thing about winter air was its quietness. The colder it became, the more people stayed indoors. Magically, the outdoors, wherever I went, was an oasis of peacefulness. The sounds of my own breathing, the crunch of snow under my feet and the visible mist coming from my mouth were meditative for me.
Going through the countryside in winter afforded me views of a limitless horizon across flat fields of untouched snow. It was as if the distance between where I stood and as far as I could see, was pure clean peacefulness. On a good day, the long silence was peaceful for so long that my imagination took over. My thoughts and ideas became the closest thing to dreaming with my eyes wide open. It felt like I was awake and consciously moving into meditation.
I think I am homesick as I sit in my car in Hong Kong streets resenting that the air-con is on and the windows are sealed tight. There is just too much noise, and too much pollution outside to open the windows. I breathe out and try to listen to my exhalation above the din of double-decker buses, honking lorries and chugging trams.
Julia: Cold air in Hong Kong penetrates the bones and freezes the mind. It deadens us for the first few days. We are in shock. Then, in an instant, we get our act together. We take out the electric blankets, switch the air-cons to “heat” mode, make stews instead of salads, and settle down for the three months of cold, damp conditions.
Yet, when in Europe during the cold of winter, I sparkle. I love the crisp air, the freshness, the quiet. Paris in the winter is the most wonderful experience – no tourists are tempted to this great city during the months of January and February, so I can wander among historic sites free of queues. Cafes are delighted by my custom and bring me endless cups of strong black coffee. I can look at the paintings in the Louvre for as long as I like. I’m going to Italy in February. I hope the cold will keep everyone else from going there, too!
As a child growing up in England, winter meant sharp, crisp mornings driving to school through Ashdown Forest, where the trees, coated in frost, looked like a magical winter wonderland. It meant coming back in the dark at 3.30 in the afternoon. My nose was always red with the cold, and my hands tingled.
Once home, my sister would light the log fire in the sitting room and make tea and toast, while my mother and I carried a tree trunk (not too large) into the kitchen and lodged it on two up-turned stools. Then we would saw off chunks to keep the fire burning for the rest of the day. By the time we had a boxful of logs, tea would be ready and the fire would be roaring. We would sit in front of the blaze and tell each other about our day.
I don’t like the cold, but I am intrigued by how many happy memories winter evokes for me.