On gray days

Photo by Thought Catalog via Unsplash

Photo by Thought Catalog via Unsplash

“On gray days, when it’s snowing or raining, I think you should be able to call up a judge and take an oath that you’ll just read a good book all day, and he’d allow you to stay home.” ― Bill Watterson

In the winter it’s so easy to become gloomy and depressed. Not surprisingly, I’ve had an especially tough time with that this winter. Take tonight, when I was feeling very morose and sad, cold and lonely. I started feeding my brain images of cozy winter scenes, with fireplaces and books and warm mugs of tea or hot chocolate. Bingo! Just like that, I felt better. I suppose it was a real-life demonstration of the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

So if you live in the northern hemisphere where it’s likely to be cold right now, I invite you to take a quick mental vacation. I hereby appoint myself the judge Watterson imagined. As far as I’m concerned, you may stay home and read a good book all day. Objections? Overruled.

Okay, so maybe you do have to work, or run errands, or do any of a number of other things you can’t gracefully avoid. Just do what I did tonight, and pretend: imagine a cozy scene with a favorite book. Throw in other fun ideas such as a fireplace, freshly-baked cookies or a savory quiche, or a long chat with a good friend who’s reading the same book you are. If you are like me, these thoughts will cheer you up, even if you’re only daydreaming for a minute or two.

Then promise yourself to set aside at least an hour tonight to bring the daydream to life.


  1. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ It’s a foggy morning here so commuters are already being advised to allow extra time for their drive. Isn’t it nice to take an “adult time out” occasionally? Even in retirement, we often find our days filled with various commitments that make us tired and overwhelmed. Maybe it just doesn’t take as much busyness to make us need a break! You can be the “judge” and I’ll be the “hall monitor” just to make sure we keep things under control! I want to check out The Onion that y’all mentioned in the previous post since I’m not familiar with it. Have a good day, a good week, and know I keep you close in my thoughts as well as my prayers. 💛 Love, Sheila

    • Thanks, Sheila. The Onion is sometimes a bit too laced with profanity for even me, but it is so hysterically funny that it’s a guilty pleasure. I’ve been reading it for years and while I don’t like everything they do, they certainly know their satire. I suppose this is what comes of reading too much MAD magazine when I was a kid (and I don’t need to tell you who got me a gift subscription, hee-hee). Just to give you a taste of how off-beat and outrageous The Onion can be, here’s a recent sample article, and also one from 2013, to get you started. They do a great job with their photo-edits, as the hot air balloon photo demonstrates.

  2. In the photo above, the hot coffee and book look good, but those Italian meatballs look like they’re permanently staining those sheets! (IMHO – Your original photography is best in this blog.)

    • Thanks for the kind words about my photography, but given the meatballs comment, I’m not sure I can give it much weight. 🙂 Seriously, I am hopeful that one day I might be able to get back out and take some more pictures. Right now I’m afraid that if I posted any of my recent shots, I would have to change the name of this blog to ALL OWEN ALL THE TIME.

    • Ann

      Those are not meatballs! They are lights. Maybe you’re hungry 😀😀😀. I agree that Julia’s own photographs are the best. Julia, they don’t have to be new ones. All Owen all the time is fine too, but what about Grady?! So glad you are continuing this blog.

      • Ann, Grady has entered a phase of life where he very much dislikes being photographed. As such, I always ask him before I take his picture, and 95% of the time, the answer is “no” — in that way, as in many others, he reminds me more and more of Jeff, who always protested anytime I had photo or mention of him on this blog, and had to be coaxed into allowing photos. Grady apparently got a great many of his grandfather’s genes. BTW, I sympathize because I don’t like to have my picture taken. Anyway, I do often attempt the “stealth” photo– from a distance or otherwise undetected– but it’s hard to get good photos that way. Owen, on the other hand, loves to smile and doesn’t yet know to be inhibited. Thanks for the kind words about my photographs, and the blog. I do hope to get behind a camera more often this year. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

  3. Dorothy Walker

    Dear Julia, here in the Blue Mountains of New Sourh Wales, while the Northern hemisphere is freezing, we’re in the grip of heatwaves! Days often reaching 40 degrees and some nights not below high 20s. Anything that needs to be done happens in the morning and then just keep cool for rest of the day. This is a very good excuse to read, which is what I’ve been doing. I guess it is difficult to spend time outside for you during winter and I can imagine how you are feeling. Being able to enjoy a walk in the garden lifts one’s spririts or as I’m doing continually watering to keep everything alive. It is almost a year now since Neil died and I miss him every day, but it does get easier, it’s early days for you and Spring will come in a few months. Blessings to you and family.

    • Dorothy, I’m not good at all with my Celsius conversions, so I had to look it up…WHOA, 104!! Is that humid or dry heat? If it’s dry heat, beam me up, because my sauna just went out. Have the iced tea and lemonade ready, and I’ll bring some sorbet. 🙂 In a TSA-approved ice chest, of course.

      I have only been walking twice since Jeff died, and I can really feel the difference it makes in my overall mood. I’m determined to get back out there and start walking again, even if it’s cold, wet and windy. It helps to know that it will get better and to be reminded it’s early days yet. Sometimes it feels like forever already, and yet I’m amazed that it has been over 3 months. Of course, that’s partly because everything that has happened since then is a sort of blur in my mind. Thanks for dropping by…I’m always cheered to hear from you. Hope you enjoy some cooler weather soon.

  4. MaryAnn Clontz

    How delightful, the imagery you paint is inviting & beckoning me! Thanks for reminding us to think about “good, lovely, true, honorable, right, pure, anything excellent or praiseworthy.” As you can see I gleaned this list from Philippians 4:8; but I combined two versions: NIV & NCV.
    The Owen Show is splendid!
    You are on my mind & in my heart! Sending love & hugs!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. We are enjoying our new, colorful “mug rugs” (I know mine is meant to be a pot holder, but I am using it as a mug rug since I do more eating and drinking than cooking!) 🙂

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        That fills my heart with JOY! So glad you use them! That’s good that yours is dual-purposed.:D
        Monday & Tuesday, as I was walking, my thoughts & prayers were with you. It felt as if we were enjoying tea together. The temp was 46* & 48*. Brrr! For California~~

        • Mary Ann, that is chilly for NorCal. A great day for an imaginary tea party! Just remember, spring is fast approaching…

  5. I asked my mother once how she kept it together after our father died. She said she used to get through her work days by pretending he was still with us. She had to work full time, look after three daughters, all under 14, while barely making ends meet. There is power in the pretend.

    Julia, this is such a hard time in your life, with our without a cold, dark winter. It must be challenging every day. Arms around you.

    • Alys, thank you for telling me that. I talk to Jeff all the time. I suppose it is a form pretending, although it’s also a way of calling up the continuing support of his example and acceptance. My heart goes out to your mother. I have thought often about how devastating it would be to face this loss with the financial uncertainty that so often goes along with it. The death of a loved one affects us on so many levels, not all of which are as obvious, but the cumulative toll of the consequences can definitely be overwhelming. I think imagination is a crucial gift in such situations; a form of salvation from insanity for so many of us, whether or not we appear artistic and creative to others.

      Yes, every day is a challenge, but some much more than others. I am greatly strengthened by your steadfast friendship, compassion and support. ❤

  6. Judy from Pennsylvania

    There’s great comfort in curling up with a special book that transports me to a different place on a cold winter’s evening. Actual physical books are free of disruptive, loud advertisements like you get on television. They’re more easy on the eyes than printed words on an electronic screen. And they smell good, especially the old ones. Sometimes I just hold one up to my nose and inhale the scent of old paper and old ink, a scent that takes me back to the way libraries smelled when I was a little girl, before the days of air conditioning and vented fans. Do you ever do that, sniff the pages in a book?

    After reading your blog this morning, I happened to go to an online newspaper and I stumbled across this: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170116-striking-photos-of-readers-around-the-world. I had to smile at the photo of the man reading a book as he and an elephant leaned against one another. When reading a book, sometimes I can just forget about a nearby elephant in my room. It’s just me and the book and the place it takes me to. Right now I’m re-reading the Jan Karon series of books about a dear man’s life in a sweet little town called Mitford. A lovely place to go to!

    • Judy, I meant to answer this earlier and somehow my answer did not seem to go through. Thanks for connecting me to this FABULOUS online photo collection! I immediately shared several of the photos to Pinterest. What a great set of photos. YES books are noise-free and most have a wonderful scent. As a kid, I totally loved the smell of our local library and would pay a good price for a potpourri that could bring that smell back to me. Old bookstores with storied histories (such as City Lights in San Francisco or Shakespeare and Company in Paris) also have their own unique smells, as do new ones such as Barnes and Noble. I quit watching TV over 25 years ago and one big reason was that the commercials were too LOUD and inane. Matt still likes to watch it but I can hardly stand to be in the room when the TV is on because the noise bugs me so badly during the commercials, and it seems that more and more airtime is given over to commercials now.

      BTW speaking of Jan Karon — I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Mitford series, read them all, and actually have a very marvelous story of a touching encounter with Jan Karon herself…it’s too long to go into here, but suffice it to say that she astounded me with her generosity and her ability to see clearly into my life in just a very limited contact. She is a beautiful and special lady. If you have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying the audio version of her books, I highly recommend them. Be sure to get the ones where John McDonough is the narrator. He’s fabulous. He has Fancy Skinner down to a T! All the others, too.

  7. Harry Sims

    This is for you: 🙂

    • Thank you, I can always use a smile!

  8. blseibel

    Great idea! I have tended to let myself sink into sad thoughts this winter. This would not have occurred to me. Thanks again for the inspiring thoughts.

    • It’s really amazing how the gifts of music, literature, art or just our own imaginations can rescue us from sorrow and despair. I wish you many happy moments of celebrating joys real now, in memory, or in anticipation! Feel free to see any of my nearly 1000 blog posts for some ideas. 🙂 Thanks for being here.

  9. Good Morning, Julia. I loved this post! You took a sad moment and turned it around with just your thoughts and imagination. 🙂 I spent yesterday doing errands and chores in the morning before this next ice storm is supposed to hit. Then I sat with a book and just read in my cozy chair with the heated back. No fireplace but a nice warm blanket over my legs. I too need a walk desperately but it’s still very icy out there so I walked the length of my super market, quickly. Just getting out for a day made a difference. I still talk to my mother and I’m sure she hears me. Winter will soon be another distant memory and the extreme heat will return so I’m enjoying every wicked moment of this cold, snowy winter. Something we haven’t had in a decade. Have a wonderfilled day and giant hugs.

    • Marlene, if it has been a decade since you had snow, I suppose it is something of a treat. Yes, the heat will be back before we know it, so let’s keep the kettle on and the books at hand as we enjoy our cozy retreats and feel deep gratitude for being warm, safe and dry. I actually did get out and walk today, though it was misty-rainy, because the temperature was in the 50’s. I set my hibiscus and dipladenia outside for a breath of fresh air (I’m trying to keep them alive inside for the winter). Now I’m back inside and enjoying my electric fireplace. Sending giant cozy hugs!!

  10. I happen to be a professional day dreamer. Ever since Mickey and his Monkeys suggessted I be a believer, I make a habit of it. I like to think of all the projects I will create in the boom room as soon as I finish my daydream and latte 😀 Or maybe I imagine the room rearranged, which leads to rearranging it and not going to the craft room after all . Maybe I’m a professional time waster too? Well it’s time well wasted then.
    It hard to set a mind in a new direction at times isn’t it? The heart and the head team up against our best efforts. I’m enjoying the fireplace as I write you. Maybe head on down to Lowes and pick yourself up one! There’s electric ones, with a mantel too. They’re very warm and inviting. Next thing you know, you’re making a cup of tea, opening a book with a kitty on you lap. Oopsie daisy, did I take that too far? Kitty’s are my saving grace some days. Their cuddles are very soothing……just a little idea from little ol’ me…the kitty lover. snicker. Thinking of you with love Julia xoxo Be well

    • K, I think I connected with your professional daydreaming from the start! And as it happens, I have enjoyed my electric fireplaces so much (just got a cute little one from a neighbor for $30!!) that we expect to get a really nice one delivered for the guest house/Matt’s apartment soon. I’ll try to send you a photo of it. We’ve had one in our York bedroom for years (with mantel and all) and it’s such a practical alternative to a real fire. Not as good but much easier to deal with and can fit anywhere, no chimney required. Now the kitty idea is also something to consider, but my problem is, I can’t get excited about having a litter box to clean. I didn’t ever mind the plastic bag routine with the dog, especially since I could drop it off in the public trash on my way home from walking. Anyway back to more appealing thoughts…someday maybe I will wing my way to snowy Edmonton and play in the Boom Room myself, but till then I have reminders of it in the lovely creations from there which I keep out so I can see them often. 🙂 ❤

      • Then we are both ‘Daydream Believers’ and I’m very envious that you’ve managed a fireplace for just $30. That wins the ‘bargain of the century’ award.

        Don’t fear a litter box J. If you’re considering a little furry friend, go for the litter box that has three trays. It sieves out the nasty bits and you just spill them into a waste pail.
        I sure hope you’ll get to Edmonton sometime. I would love to host you. There’s not as many iconic sights as DC but enough to keep us occupied for a few days. It’s rather late now and I should go to bed. I was in the Boom Room making stuff for a special event at Urban this weekend. The fun never ends but neither does our day, LOL. generous virtual hugs coming at you! Hello to Matt too xo<

        • Hey, just got electric fireplace #3 set up — can’t wait for you to see it. Hopefully it will still be a bit chilly when I see you next. But just a bit! Good news about the upscale litter box…I’ll keep it in mind. As you know, I love doggies the best, but I was a cat lover from way back, too, and had far more kitties in childhood than dogs. There’s a part of me that is afraid of becoming a crazy cat woman with 30 or 40 of them running around, but I think there is enough of Jeff’s practicality left in me to keep me from doing that. 😀

          • LOL, crazy cat lady. I’m sure practicality will intervene after 5 or so. My brother has 4 indoor and who knows how many visit his garage. He also feeds the squirrels and bunnies that come around. HA, I tell him he’ll become a crazy cat man if he’s not careful.
            I can’t wait to see fireplace #3. I love Chilly, but I will hope for mild weather for sweet Alys. I think the day we went to the Cherry Blossoms, was too cool for her. California girl! xo k

            • Yes, it can get pretty chilly on the river when the wind is blowing. Plus when you’re out around the tidal basin, there’s no warm place close by to duck into. So, if you wait for warmer weather, it will usually be AFTER the cherry blossoms are at peak. But sometimes you might luck out and get a bit of both.

  11. Good morning, Julia and Dorothy and all! Monday was 40 degrees F and sunny here in Massachusetts, so what did I do? We went to the beach! No, not with swimwear … we went for a walk near Fort Independence.
    Let me tell you, the wind off the North Atlantic gives one an appreciation for lobster fishermen and for anyone who earns a living off the sea!
    On “bringing the daydream to life” – thank you for encouraging that, Julia. Even the thought makes me smile!

    • Susan, I just love the beach in winter, even when it’s chilly. And YES, it definitely brings home just how hard a life it must be to depend upon the sea year round to earn one’s living. Sailors, whether in the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard or maritime business people, have to be made of strong stuff. Speaking of daydreams…I’d love to take a cruise to Antarctica, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough. 🙂

      • I also have a crazy (it must be crazy, right??) desire to go to Antarctica, too! My wild-hair concept is to learn French, and spend a season working at the Princess Elizabeth station.
        Maybe in another life … but it’s fun to dream!

        • Does one need to speak French to work at the Princess Elizabeth station? I know NOTHING about Antarctica except that it seems as if it would be one of the ultimate adventures. If you want to speak French, a great way to do it is to spend some time in France. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it, hoping that one day I can do exactly that… 😀 If it is good preparation for a trip to Antarctica, so much the better. As for crazy, there’s “good crazy” and “bad crazy” — this is definitely “good crazy.”

  12. Julia, Good advice your honor. I will honor it.

    • Alan, I need to practice my own advice! 🙂

  13. Mike

    Do you have a favorite winter poem? I love the winter hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” A personal favorite.
    And of course there are the winter songs of Vanilla Ice- “Ice-ice baby.” Did I send you the shot of the icicles on our roses?

    • Mike, I can’t immediately think of one, but the page at this link has a most delightful assortment of winter poems. I love Ogden Nash, and his Winter Complaint (#24) did not disappoint. Vanilla Ice? Hmmm….let me get back to you on that. No, I don’t think you sent me a photo of icicles on roses. Or perhaps if you did, it got lost in the black hole of my inbox. I feel sure I would remember if I had seen it – what a sight!

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