Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Longing for winter

I live in New England where this time of year typically is grey and slushy, the streets full of piles of snow. In an typical year my feet would be complaining about winter boots, I would have shoveled my own weight in snow and I would have slipped on the ice at least once. In a typical year I would be silently congratulating myself on getting through another winter.

This isn't a typical year. It's been an unusually mild winter. We've certainly had a few Very Cold Days, we've had some snow, but it's been nothing like years past. Whether it's global climate change or simply an anomalous year, I don't know. I do know that, for all that it's been easier, I find myself longing for winter.

Winter gives me something to push against. The short days and long nights can trigger depression, so the cold and snow give me an external force to fight with. They offer me badly needed resistance. Much the way a weight lifter needs to lift heavy things to be strong, I need to push against winter to not be consumed by my own darkness on the long dark nights.

Winter is beautiful. The starkness of snow and barren trees, the sparkling ice, the plumes of exhalation that turn me into a dragon, the clarity of the stars are a kind of beauty you can only find in the cold, in the snow, when the world crunches beneath your boots.

Winter allows for comfort. When I've been outside shoveling or driving home in the dark, winter encourages a kind of self-comfort that seems silly when it's 45 degrees outside. I don't really need hot cocoa if I can walk around with an open coat. I don't really need the crackling fire if my hands aren't frozen and my toes lost to feeling. I can still enjoy them, but the need makes the cocoa sweeter, the fire warmer.

Winter allows for rest. We all need fallow time, a chance to be quiet and look within, when we are not called upon to produce and create, but can rest in the dark, replenish ourselves with long nights spent reading or talking. Winter gives us a badly needed reason to stay home, to not rush out, to do only what is essential and in so doing, allow our reservoirs to refill.

Winter is a time of possibility, where magic lurks. C.S. Lewis knew this, introducing us to Narnia in the winter, when the White Witch beguiles Edmund. Maybe he learned this from the many fairy tales that call upon winter to hide mystery. We need to see the tracks in the snow so we can wonder if they were from a squirrel or a clawed man. We need to leave out sweet cakes and milk for the fairies and to marvel when they are gone. We need the wonder of the frozen lake, the threat of the crack and the safe scurry to the side. We need the mystery of the cold and dark and the persistent hope of warmth and light.

Because Winter reminds us to hope. When winter is at its most fierce, when the storm rage and snow piles high, we know it will not last. Winter reminds us that even the most trying times are fleeting, that we can endure even this with only a bare memory and faint promise of spring.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Oh Laura, that was so beautifully written. Love: sweet cakes for the fairies; winter as something to push against; something to give us hope. All beautiful ideas and phrasings. I too love winter and am sorrowful about its lacklustre performance this year.


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