And welcome to the depths of winter. Each year, we enter this season filled with dread, but also with a confidence that this year, we’ve got a good sense of what to expect–we can handle it. Yet it is about this time every year that people begin to bottom out.

We give up. Yet that connotes that we have somehow failed, as if the scant daylight hours and cold temperatures were something we could have conquered. As any good fable will tell you, man is no match for nature. It is best to embrace the natural world and accept our place within it. In that same contemplative vein, we bring you four ruminations on how we surround ourselves with comforting things to ensure a proper springtime rebirth.

Arts columnist Kate Dobbs Ariail is a true critic, a skill that could turn into a downright liability should she let the winter months reduce her sharp wit to a biting tongue. She advocates a steady diet of self-pampering, a technique that is guaranteed to make the most ornery grizzly as sweet as a teddy bear.

As in days of old, Ed Holm heats his house by wood stove. If you swoon at the idea of a fire on a cold day, drool on Ed. He assures us that heating by stove isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be–but it’s pretty darn close.

Finding it hard to get excited about spending more time alone in an increasingly private world, Whitney Vaughan explores three communal households in the Triangle. Consensus in the communal community says surrounding yourself with people means fulfillment.

Clancy Nolan discovers the root of all human nesting activity: blankets at birth. Modern medicine allows for the nurturing capability of quilts in the neonatal wards of local hospitals–an allowance we should all make for ourselves.