20 January 2010

In Praise of Winter

The truth is, I hate winter. I hate being cold. I hate walking outside in the mornings and feeling the skin on my face tighten and burn as frigid air penetrates my skin and sinks into my soul, leaving me low and bemoaning my cruel fate. I hate that my feet start to numb beginning with the toes and working up into the soles; and I hate even more that before they lose feeling they pang with bursts of uncomfortable coldness radiating into the rest of my body. I hate that when I walk outside I think I might crystallize into a large human icicle, but when I walk inside on campus, still wrapped in scarves, gloves, wool coat, sweaters, thermals, tights and knee socks (which remain insufficient to fight off the deceptively sunny chill outside), I begin to sweat under the too high temperatures of the buildings I enter, leading to an intensely and annoyingly variable discomfort inside and out. And I hate how there is no reasonable means of keeping my face warm, so that my cheeks and nose turn red and raw and my eyes start to water as much from the harshness of temperature as from the sadness it crystallizes into my heart.

I’m from Arizona, but I’ve lived in Utah for four and a half years now. I knew that frozen, snowy winters would be a shock, but I thought I might start getting used to the cold after awhile. I thought that I would learn the secret to keeping your self warm while walking across snow-packet sidewalks and under trees that douse you in thick white slush if you dare venture beneath their heavy laden boughs. I assumed that I would learn how to keep my balance when skidding across ice infested walkways that have left me badly embarrassed and bruised on more occasions than I am likely to confess. But such has not been the case, and as Winter has begun her reign yet again this year, I found an abnormal sense of pleasure in planning for myself a future free of frozen fingers, feet and face, forevermore! I will be graduating in a few months, and I feel like an elderly person who has recently retired as I picture myself sunny and cheerful in Arizona, California, Texas, Florida. I imagine the beautiful winter days when I can retire the bulky footwear and suffocating coats I’ve tried to come to terms with and replacing them with my ever beloved sandals and tee-shirts worn outdoors on even Christmas day — paradise! I stubbornly and maliciously plotted ways in which I might fix my future so that I would never have to touch another snowflake in my life—it would be essential, I mused, to marry a man as opposed to coldness as myself, of course. And then, if perhaps I was diagnosed with an ailment that provided me with doctor prescribed warmth and sunshine—a vitamin D deficiency lets say—that could never hurt. And I should look into a career path that would necessitate a warm climate—I should start growing citrus! After all, who doesn’t love a good orange?

Then it hit me, mid-fantasy: what if I really never had a winter again? The image of the first frosted morning of the winter season flashed before my eyes like the face of a loved one lost. Gone forever. What if I never saw the way the sunlight glints off the snow into a million dappling lights, casting glitter across the landscape and almost blinding me with brilliance? What if I never saw the lightly falling snow illuminated mysteriously and enchantingly in the moonlight as it softly falls upon my hair and face with a gentleness and delicacy of a first kiss? What if I never heard the crisp chirp of a chilly bird in the early morning hours reverberating through the frozen air, captured in the stillness and reverence of those icy days, as if taking time to bask in the beauty of the resting earth, blanketed and protected by this dense covering of crystals? What if I never felt the tingle of chilliness tickle my nose and cheeks and fingers refreshingly as I step outside from the warmth of a heated house, waiting behind me with promises of warmth and sweet cups of tea and cider and chocolate that so starkly contrasts the outside world that each becomes magically perfected in its variance? I was suddenly stricken with terror. I was horrified at the thought of losing winter, the season I had always considered the worst of enemies; my nemesis; my torturer; the unfeeling, inhospitable juncture of time, cruelly keeping me from flip-flops and tee-shirts, swimming pools and suntans; the absence of comfort, and even of life.

Now, I found my heart heavy and the corners of my eyes brimming with dampness, the ever ready butterflies of fear taking up their place in my stomach—I knew I would miss winter, somehow, impossibly, if I found a way to evade its presence ever more. I was flabbergasted and confused at this strange sorrow and the unsuspected dearness of winter. Everything I knew told me to escape with all possible haste and never turn back. And yet, I knew that my success in such an act would not leave me satisfied. I was in a conundrum.

So now, as I sit in my semi-heated apartment, watching as the first few wispy flakes of snow drift down past my window, despite my initial instinct to cringe and complain, I realize I need to enjoy these moments and hold them dear. I need to remember this beauty and keep it locked inside of me so that I can pull it out someday as I sit warm by the beach in Miami or San Diego, and enjoy the beauty of winter, safely in the heat of the sun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love you. dearly...