The consolations of winter

I love the winter. I love snow fall, I love the piling drifts. I love the cold weather. I realize this places me in a vanishingly small minority. I don’t care; it wouldn’t be the first time.

I was born in Massachusetts but both of my parents spent the first portion of their lives in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. My ancestry is heavily Norwegian. I would think  that a love of cold climates is inherent in my blood, except that my parents moved to Florida shortly after I was born precisely to escape the winters of the North. But when I look at photographs of snow-covered pines, of icy cliffs, of long fields blanketed in white, I feel a tugging in some unnamed place inside me. Particularly when I look at pictures of Scandinavia. Is there a word that means feeling nostalgia for a place you’ve never been?

Winter calms me. I like the clothes I’m forced to wear: heavy and dark, so that I’m turned into a smudge of ink on a white page as I walk the two blocks from my apartment building to Clingman Cafe, where I go for coffee and warmth and the pleasing company of strangers. I like the bright feeling in my lungs as I inhale the icy air. In winter the light comes to earth at an angle which sharpens detail. It is a lean season, a season for the paring away of excess. It reduces the world to its essential nature, and I feel called upon to do the same thing with myself. I organize my home, I organize my mind and my heart. There is so much clutter, and it is a pleasure to get rid of it all.

These are pictures taken from the living room window of my apartment or, in the case of the tree, just outside my building. I can go all year without picking up a camera, but when the snow falls I find I am taking pictures of everything I see. I want to remember it all when the summer threatens to smother the life out of me.

My friend A, who hates winter with the whole of her Southern soul, sent me this poem yesterday, which says it all better than I can:

Zero Holding, by Robyn Sarah

I grow to like the bare
trees and the snow, the bones and fur
of winter. Even the greyness
of the nunneries, they are so grey,
walled all around with grey stones —
and the snow piled up on ledges
of wall and sill, those grey
planes for holding snow: this is how
it will be, months now, all so still,
sunk in itself, only the cold alive,
vibrant, like a wire — and all the
busy chimneys — their ghost-breath,
a rumour of lives warmed within,
rising, rising, and blowing away.

You’ll all get your endless summer soon enough. I’m going to love the winters while we still have them.

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4 thoughts on “The consolations of winter

  1. April

    One of your loveliest posts yet, N. I’ve decided to attempt a partial embrace of winter through walking for several reasons. One, I love to go for walks, and two, I am withering and expanding all at once and I find this phenomenon alarming. And three-winter is here whether I like it or not so I might as well seek some joy from it. After all, I am Norwegian, too, but I believe my Nordic blood is a bit more watered down than yours. 🙂 So let’s go walk together and I’ll let you buy my Southern ass a coffee.

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