I have never been one to celebrate winter. Not here, not in private, not really ever. Sure there were cold days in my youth where I enjoyed skating over frozen water, and other more recent days when I enjoyed a crackling fire in a way that can only be enjoyed in the middle of the darkest, deepest winter. But these are not celebrations, they are just functions of a life spent suffering winter. Given this disdain for all things winter, you can appreciate the feelings that I’ve had towards winter on both of the last Sunday afternoons. Winter on those two days was pleasant. It wasn’t just merely tolerable, instead it seemed worthy of actually enjoying. Winter, it seems, isn’t all that bad.
On those two Sunday afternoons I found my way to the woods behind my unlived in house and started a fire with dead wood that had just been cut. I wore clothes suited for the winter, and I sat near the fire while the sun warmed my hands and the fire warmed my legs, and I thought that this wasn’t merely acceptable, it was, in fact, rather enjoyable. For moments, I regretted not being in the new house in time to enjoy winter. The fireplaces in this house that is not yet my home are aching to be warmed by the flames of a roaring oak fire, and I am finding the practice of imagining to sit by those fireplaces to be tiring. I want to live in that house in winter, and last Sunday, with the birds at play in the brush and my fire gently consuming bent and broken branches that fell during one heavy snow, it seemed like winter was the place to be.
This thinking is reasonable, but I’m afraid it isn’t clear. This thinking is the sort of thinking that can only blossom on a sunny Sunday in very late February, and maybe on another sunny Sunday in March. This thinking is skewed with perspective, because on one of these late Sundays it’s so very easy to pretend that winter wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s like death. People who hated you in life will find a way to say kind things about you in death. When death is close, people might even reach out to you by telephone or written note, apologizing for this or accepting an apology for that, but at this late hour there’s no time left to figure out if the apology given or received is sincere. Winter, be it the celebrated, the tolerated, or the bitterly hated variety, is dying. Each movement is slower, each breath shallower, each day, longer. Gather friends and family soon, because the time is short.
It’s not generally acceptable to spew hate at a funeral, in fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it done. Most funeral hate is contained within the “silent resentment” category, and open hate for the just deceased should be limited to very select individuals, like dictators and cheats, though if the dictator is beloved by the media then that dictator will be recast as a freedom fighter, or an revolutionary statesman. This is why I won’t be spewing all that much hate today for winter, even while I loudly celebrate its demise. The forecast today calls for sunshine and temperatures that might graze 40, which means that the snow today will melt from the bow of my boat, and the drift of snow that pushed up against the tires on the trailer will shrink. It means that today winter will begin its retreat, and it means that it’s time for the ice to turn from clear and white to dark and ornery.
Some day, I’ll find time to spend winter in the woods. I’ll chop firewood- mostly with an annoying wristy motion to avoid damage to my already damaged back- and I’ll throw that wood on a fire. I will drink coffee from a mug while that fire roars, and I’ll move chairs when the wind pushes the smoke in my direction. I will wear flannel. I will sit in those woods and listen to the birds play and call for each other from the brush. I will wander the trails and scan the ground for tracks, and perhaps if I study during the summer I’ll be able to determine more tracks than just those left by a deer or a rabbit, though now I must admit I’m not entirely sure what rabbit tracks look like. By then I will. But that winter is a summer away, and for now, the winter isn’t just over in my mind, it’s over for real. (Possible March or April snow storms notwithstanding.)