Winter Is the Best Time

Not only — as the wonderful Vermont poet David Budbill wrote in “Winter: Tonight: Sunset” — “for being here, today, now, alive in this life, in this evening, under this sky.” Yes, partly that, but really this is the best time of year for more prosaic reasons, too. The crowds have vanished, the shopkeepers and barkeeps know your name (or are glad to pretend to), strangers smile at you in the Sag Harbor Variety Store, the ticks have crept back to wherever they creep to, the ebb and flow of the community has returned, of school days and high school sports and empty parking spaces.

It’s bay-scallop season in shore and longline tilefishing offshore. It’s when you can peer through the leafless hedges at all the huge and strangely vacant houses. It’s ice-skating and iceboating on the ponds, and offbeat, off-season haunts and jaunts. It’s long movie nights and twinkly holiday lights. It is the time of year when you drive down to the beach your traditional way and never see another soul. And the ocean is there, as ever, doing that thing for you.

December was once a time of taking stock, personally and as a community. A poor year on the farm or on the water would mean a tough winter. You’d need your neighbors to get you through. You’d know who your friends were, what community can truly mean. That carries on.

Look around. December is fellowship, serving neighbors, thinking collectively, counting our blessings.

Oh, yes, there’s also the weather. That. It doesn’t seem to slow down the hockey players at Buckskill Winter Club, or the surfers, who all agree the best season for big, crowd-free waves begins in October and ends in May (see “Rider on the Storm,” page 8). As the Norwegians like to say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” So, get out and embrace it, because as my forever companion and former neighbor wrote:


Winter is the best time

to find out who you are.

Quiet, contemplation time,

away from the rushing world,

cold time, dark time, holed-up:

pulled-in time and space

to see that inner landscape,

that place hidden and within.

“Winter Is the Best Time”

David Budbill (1940–2016)

from While We’ve Still Got Feet


Biddle Duke

Biddle Duke, the founding editor of East magazine, was a newspaper reporter and editor in three states and Argentina before moving to Vermont, where he has owned and operated a group of weeklies for the past 19 years. He spends most of his time these days in Springs.