Signs of Impending Winter

Tonight my winter coat was not enough to stop the bite of frozen breezes.  The wind comes only from the north now, sometimes in whispers, often in gusts, but no matter the speed the edge is razor-fine.  Gloves and woolen cap were pulled down from the shelf weeks ago, but still sat on my table most days; now they will inhabit pockets and bags, ready at a moment’s notice.

The first sign arrived weeks ago, a thin layer on windshields, the scraper pulled from my trunk and the dial turned to defrost.  Glorious days of sun and sixty shout an occasional reluctance to leave, gracing us with an afternoon of warmth that is quickly lost when dusk arrives.  Thermostats shifted from cool to warm bring again the crackle of static in clothes and the cracking of too-dry skin.

It is the beginning of the season of layers, of jeans and sweaters and boots.  The months of snow and ice and dark approach, when driving becomes treacherous and even walking the dog has hazards.  This year I am better prepared.  I recognize the signs, know the dangers, and have the tools to make it through.  There are more than two sweaters hanging in my closet now, my winter wardrobe replenished after a decade further south.

Winter is coming, the first waves lapping the shore hinting of the rising tide to come.


Subtle Beauty

Outside, the vivid shades of summer have given way to the understated palette of winter.  The riot of greens mixed with a rainbow of colored plants and animals has gone.  Yet there is still beauty to be found.

Today does not hold the sharp contrasting beauty of a holiday card, with pristine white of snow and stark black of bare branches.  The scene outside is instead more subtle, the beauty concealed in a bleakness many find unappealing.  But look closer; you will find that the wildness of winter holds secret splendor.

It can be found in the swirls of a frozen river, blending every possible variation of gray in a random, mesmerizing pattern.  There are the dry plants, each lending a different shade of brown to the shivering field.  Ice abounds, its clarity, like diamond, changed by the minerals contained and the impurities trapped within.  Here and there you see a patch of green defiance: pines standing still-leafed against the cold, grass that refuses to surrender to death.  And yes, the trees and snow are still present, but no longer in the spotlight.  Instead, the leafless branches form a backdrop, the pockets of snow an accenting counterpoint.

The leaden sky and dampened sunlight seemed to add to the scene as I hiked this afternoon.  Clouds, too, have their own quiet beauty, and the cold loveliness of the walk would have been easy to miss if my eyes had been looking up, basking in the sunlight.  Instead, the entire world was wrapped in the quiet shading of winter, and I am glad I was there to witness it.

Winter Songs

I love holiday music, and listening to some in my car today brought me an interesting thought.

When it comes to Christmas music, there are three broad categories.  There are religious songs (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing), there are secular songs (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silver Bells), and there are the “Christmas” songs that are really winter songs.

This last category of songs intrigues me.  These are songs like Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, and Let It Snow that don’t mention a holiday at all.  Quick, think of the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman or Sleigh Ride.  Any Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday themes or words?  Nope, didn’t think so.  This leads me to the question: why do we stop listening to them after December?

For most of the country, snow and winter last at least until February.  Let It Snow and Baby It’s Cold Outside are very romantic and legitimately more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than for Christmas.  Sleigh Ride and Jingle Bells could honestly be played as long as there is snow on the ground.  And yet they get filed away with the Christmas songs every year.

Christmas is a big holiday and it has clearly commandeered snow and winter as part of its meme.  At this point I’m not sure that winter, as a season, could take back these songs or any of the other symbols of the season from the colossus that is Christmas.  Perhaps as a gloomy, cold season, its only fair for winter to take advantage of the light and joy of the holidays it encompasses.

Writing on the Porch

I have been visiting my family in Illinois the last few days.  It’s been a while since I was back for a visit and my parents have done some major renovations to the house where I grew up. 

Today I am taking advantage of one of those renovations: their new three-seasons porch.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, I will attempt to explain.

At my parents’ house, the three-seasons porch has replaced an old deck.  Instead of being open to the world (thus rainy, cold, or hot depending on the season) the porch has walls and a roof.  The walls are filled with windows; only the space required for the window frames is not glass, at least at a certain level.  What makes it a porch and not a room of the house?  It is not connected to the heating/cooling system and has no insulation.  It does have electricity, enough for one outlet and a ceiling fan.  You can probably guess the three seasons of intended use.

It’s cold here today.  Before I turned on the little space heater, it was 48° Farenheit on the porch.  This is not one of the three seasons (although some might argue that it is still fall, here it feels like winter).  I do not get a lot of chances to visit, however, and I wanted to take advantage of the porch as a place to write while I was here.  I’m sitting on the porch wrapped in throws with a heavy sweatshirt, writing.  After I finish the post, I intend to do some serious work on With Honor (that’s Matthew’s story).

If I was a full-time writer, I think I would have a porch like this as my office.  I write better when I am outside, even if “outside” is really a window away.  🙂