School is closed today. Ice and snow and arctic winds made their way into Southwest Ohio. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, an ancient plank of walnut dressed in vintage lace, sipping coffee laced with peppermint and Kahlúa, watching the lacy snow fall. I am content in that simplicity.
It’s early December, and many people have had their Christmas trees up for a week or more. Many have already shopped and wrapped. A day like today would be perfect for baking a few batches of gingersnaps or shortbread cookies. And yet, I am content in not rushing the season. There is already too much bustle and too much pressure for giving the perfect gift. Good heavens, Charlie Brown and Rudolf have already made their appearances and we aren’t even in double digit December days.
I am content to watch the snow fall.
There’s something about winter that I love, and it’s difficult to articulate. Many of my friends hate winter, despise cold and snow, curse the dark days. I understand that balmy days and lazy summer evenings and warm breezes are enjoyable, but there is something almost spiritual about winter that I think we miss. We have become creatures of comfort who are too insulated from the cycles of nature, of life, and winter challenges that notion of insulation. So instead of giving into cyclical rhythms of sleeping away long nights and curling in with a good book in front of the fire, we fight the dark and turn up the lights and heat and try to create summer indoors. But then, when you step outside, the cold takes your breath away.
You really know you’re alive when you take in a lungful of icy air.
And that’s my point. We can party our way through spring and end up in the drunken stupor of summer, but winter is about survival, about life, and the rest that comes before regeneration. Without the rest, the inwardness, the introspection, we can’t clearly feel what is real and important. The ancients lived close to the land and seasons, making great preparations and setting aside feast days and, later, fasting days. Their bodies were honed to endure the seasons. Their minds were attuned to making the best of what there was. Don’t get me wrong; I love a warm shower and electricity. I wouldn’t want to give that up. But by denying the change of seasons, and plunging ahead as though we defy the winter, we lose introspection and anticipation. Instead of sitting in front of electronic devices and the lighted screens that jazz our brains and keep us from being rested and sharp, how about we just be quiet, ease into darkness, and let deep, restful sleep envelop us through the dark, cold night?
Perhaps it’s childhood fantasy that I cling so steadfastly to. The joy of snowflakes on your tongue, of the silvery reflections of a crisp, crystalline cold snow by moonlight, the way the snow whitens everything to make it pristine and clean…there is a loveliness about snow that enchants me.
I know that by the end of February, I’ll be ready for a change. The first warm breeze of spring will make me rejoice every bit as much as this first serious snowfall. That is the charm of four seasons. You get to take stock of your life and assess what to keep and what to discard, like mismatched mittens and worn-out sandals.
So, let it snow. Let us acknowledge that we are not all-powerful, that there is something greater than we are, and that by surviving it, we take our place in the fully living, fully aware.