It’s cold. When I open the doors in the morning they stick shut and I pull fiercely at the handle. The dog scampers out, making it to the top step before stopping to rethink her intent to sprint around the yard. The children ask not to go out every afternoon. Though they are stir crazy and feel ready to jump out of their skin. I watch the chickadees and finches hopping around the feeders, bold enough, hungry enough to come close to my frozen shut windows for seed. Perhaps they realize I won’t come out to try to snatch them up.
We breathe out “smoke”, this crystallized air that can hurt to inhale, coughing more and more as we go about our outdoor tasks. I wonder aloud, sometimes waling; “Why did people ever settle here!?” I, clearly am not meant for this place, this climate, this negative temperature. The nights stretch on and on with no end in sight. The darkness so complete that we are barely able to enjoy the apricity, the warmth of the sunshine in winter. The snow so cold it no longer sticks together to form snowballs, as if to say; “There is no fun to be had here. Move along someplace warm.”.
Should I embrace it? Believe that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices? Shall I pull on an additional pair of socks and go tromping out through the icy neighborhoods? The fresh air begs me to do so. In my earliest mornings, I step out onto the deck in my wool socks and breathe as deeply as I can, the cold shocking me and stinging my face. Tucking hands into sweatshirt sleeves, hugging myself tightly and staring up. Searching for a star, hoping to spy the wolf moon. It’s there, showing only glimpses of itself in the heavily clouded sky. And I feel much like that moon, named for the wolves that howled outside Native American villages, on mornings much like this. Lonely, hungry, cold. I hide as well, being forced out only for required tasks, like when there is only peanut butter left in the cupboard and the children need to eat. This hiding out, this hunkering down, does cause loneliness. The need for societal interaction begs me to actually put on my coat and leave the house. Like the wolf the need to cry out, to be heard, to hear an answering voice is so great that it defies the cold. And we venture out, at least for a bit.
The furnace kicks in, I am grateful that it continues to do so. We snuggle into blankets and make cocoa in the early afternoon darkness. We create as the craft supplies dwindle, a trip out to restock looms, nearly laughing. We search the sites for more and more creative/educational/fun things to do with Legos, only to be frustrated by a project that doesn’t quite work out as planned. We learn new games, play old ones until we tire of them. Afternoons are filled with Simon-says and jumping jacks in the kitchen just so we don’t forget how our muscles work. Evenings are filled with stories, this is when the reading takes over. I remember now, the bulk of the books read, are done so in the cold months. “Just one more chapter” becomes a mantra spoken late into the black of winter. I struggle to keep my eyes open on either end of the night and yet I sit, and read, one more page, one more verse, one more sentence, “just one more chapter…”.
The hope for summer consumes me. Once it was awaiting the seed catalogs, now I have endless access to beautiful garden plants and new flower bed ideas at my fingertips whenever I need them. My Pinterest fantasy gardens rival any English cottage and I swear this will be the year I bring them into reality! It’s easy to make these promises in January. I hold firm that I will grow three heirloom variety of squash and plump little eggplant, the winter does not care that my family detests these vegetables. They are simply beautiful and perfect and call out to me with promises of black earth under my nails instead of bleak landscape all around me. I tend the potted rosemary, wondering if I can keep it alive until the frost lets go of the earth. This challenge all too close to my heart; if the rosemary survives, perhaps I can as well? Though this morning I wonder anew if there is any chance for such a heat-loving plant to make it in such a place as this.
“Embrace it!!” they cry. I wonder if I am the only one who can not. The lone person who asks, “Why?”. I am able to see the beauty in the winter, in the cold, I know that it is out there. The sparkling frost laying on everything this morning reminds me of faeries with lacy wings. Serving as a reminder that even in the deepest depths of winter there is loveliness, if you are willing to look for it. And so I do. I seek it out as a way to survive; rabbit tracks in new snow, frost swirled patterns on windows, smoke curling from the neighbors chimney. All things I can see from the warmth of my living room. I ask myself how much more glory would there be if I actually stepped out the door, went out into the cold, stomped across the backyard? I decide not to risk it.
This season is long, isolating, consuming. I am not happy in it. I must deliberately put pen to paper tracking the good, the gifts, the blessings I receive daily or the sadness overwhelms. I seek out the small, seemingly normal and attempt to mentally spin it into supreme. I nearly force myself to find something, anything, that I don’t despise about this time of year so as to not be consumed by my distaste for it. Goodness that is dramatic…
The cold is good for me, I know it is true. All things need a season of rest, a break in the music so that the musicians may breathe. Winter is a time of quiet, it is a season to be refilled for what is to come. While I may not enjoy being forced indoors I know the stillness is needed. While I will not go out and enjoy the frigid days, I will pour hot coffee, holding my mug as the steam swirls ever upward, bringing my attention back to the moon. I will listen for the wolves to howl. Calling out to one another, calling out to my own soul, on these, the deepest, coldest, longest nights of the year.