I realize that I am far from the first person to say this, but there is something so magical about walking in the falling snow. No, there is nothing novel about this sentiment, and yet I still feel that it bears repeating. The magic of it is simply overwhelming, and I have no choice but to point it out, just as so many have done before me. Winter compels me, and who am I to resist?
There is something about the cold and the grey that speaks to me. It fills a need in me that often goes unexpressed, but in winter’s absence, in those California months when the snow refuses to come and the mercury hovers in the fifties, it cries out and begs me to go. To wander north or away from the ocean towns, to scale mountains if need be, all in hopes of feeling that chill, that bite of frosty wind that quickens the blood and sharpens the senses. To smell the smoke of houses ablaze with warmth, fending off the cold that would creep inside and steal their comfort and even their lives. Yes, to witness this dance between life and death.
It is this dance that I find inspiring, this passionate embrace spawned by the changing of the years that sets fire against ice. Two unlikely partners, swaying to the music of the wind as it clambers through creaking, naked branches to carry its sweet tune far and wide. The fire and the ice, they cannot coexist. The flame that melts those winter diamonds is extinguished by that very act, and thus both must know death. And yet, the fire rages on, throws its life force into the air around it and pushes back the cold, even as it spreads too far and must occasionally retreat. Two steps forward, one step back. The dance continues.
I have often wondered why it is that I love the bleak winter sky. The summer sun upon my face, days spent in the ocean or walking the beach, these have my heart as well. Spring, with her rebirth and symphony of waking creatures and delicate aromas is certainly no stranger to my musings, and autumn, dear autumn, nothing can compare to your crisp and glorious afternoons, your painted skylines of fiery trees, your electric whisper of things to come. But winter holds a mysterious power over me, transforming the world from a brimming menagerie into a stark and desolate place where death seems to come for all. It is in this underworld, when the blanket of cold is drawn around us, that life seems all the more precious, that one must search the widowed landscape for signs that there is yet a living world, that though struggling, it has not abandoned hope. This, too, is a dance. The push and pull of it is necessary for survival, for if the living stop dancing, put up their feet and call it a night, that fire will die and so will they. And so the dance continues.
An icy sheath imprisons the canal in front of my apartment building, but a closer look reveals that it is still teeming with fish, swimming on, living on, struggling and surviving. And peering over from both banks are snow dolloped branches, looking for all the world like cotton plants that dreamt themselves big, ignoring all that they had heard and stretching out into trees bursting with daubs of white. Thus these trees, though barren, are clothed, wrapped in blankets of their own, shrouded in wintery delight.
Quiet cascades erupt from these cotton bolls, glistening shimmers that decorate the heads and shoulders of passersby. Winter is playful now. Soon the trees will have shed their coats, but the sky will be dull for a bit longer. No buds will emerge on branch or twig for a good while yet, and death will remain at our door. But this is a time of healing for me, as it is for much of the world. Life, too, needs rest, needs death. Browns and greys and whites must have their day, just as moods must occasionally darken. My spirit is bright. My spirit is happy. I feel the call of Life strongly, and I laugh with it. Without winter and its inescapable reminder of death, however, I grow restless in Life. I need the grey. I need the chill. I need the world to sleep.
But even here there is living reward, for it is the season of the evergreen, a time when steely blue can cut through a dreary winterscape and be intense and electric just for drawing a contrast with the world around it. What colours emerge are brighter, enhanced, and they remind us that it is not over. The dance continues after all.
And it is this dance that I love. It is this struggle that reminds me that I am alive. I face the cold that I might earn my warmth. I face death that I might earn my life. In my walks these days I revel in the snow, in the bare birch trees against a stark winter sky, in moments shared with beautiful people, in a world that sleeps, but wonderfully.
The wind picks up, and I pull my jacket closer and appreciate my father who gave it to me, who has fought his own winter battles and managed to thrive. I am thankful for the sweater underneath, which I received from my mother, whose own struggles with death have made her life the brighter. I think of all that has been done for me, all that has been shared, everything that has made my life what it is so that I can be in awe of the simple joy of falling snow. Much have I been given, greatly have I been blessed, so that I might be prepared when winter came and able to welcome it with a smile when it did.