Thursday, February 01, 2007
I Like Winter
I like winter. I think I first learned to appreciate the experience of winter when in fourth grade Mrs. Weinlander read the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to us in class. Laura had a singular outlook on the pioneer experience and the hardships thereof. She taught me some lessons all those years ago that remain with me. One of those is, I like winter.
Laura talked about “The Long Winter” in a book originally entitled “The Hard Winter”. Her publishers didn’t think anything with the word “hard” was appropriate for children and so it was changed. No doubt that the Ingalls experienced more than one long and hard winter, but Laura saw some deeper truths about winter that leave me liking winter; long, hard and otherwise.
I like that winter limits my choices. Summertime leaves me no excuses from being on the run constantly. More hours of daylight keep me on fast forward from early morning until late evening. But in the winter it is dark by 5:30. Some pioneer part of my brain understands that this means I should be home if at all possible seeing that my family is fed and warm. I should be winding down and heading toward a “long winter’s nap”. Even if earlier in the day I’m making plans for running here and there in the evening, once home with the darkening sky and quiet cold air closing in I’m easily convinced to stay in. “I’m in for the night.” That’s my theme in winter.
I like that winter forces me to be prepared. I’m a creature of comfort and the daughter of a former boy scout. I require a pre-warmed car and boots that have been in front of a heat duct. I do not start my day without an extra big mug of strong black coffee. I plan ahead to ensure that those creature comforts are in place and so I’m better equipped for my days in winter. My coffee pot is ready the night before. Out come the flannel sheets and electric blankets for cozy sleep. My sweaters and long johns are freshly laundered and sweet smelling from the fabric softener that prevents static cling. My cupboards are stocked for blizzards as though in the suburbs where I live I couldn’t make it to Krogers in the snow. As soon as the weather man predicts snow I make a pot of homemade soup and check that my favorite herbal teas are ready and waiting. Then when the snow comes and I’m warm and ready; I feel safe and extra blessed.
I like that winter is quiet and still. It makes me quiet and still too. It is a singular experience to sit on my soft couch with the extra bright winter sun streaming in. Warmth juxtaposed against cold. The deep snow muffles my house and insulates it against the traffic and noise of my neighborhood and sound that usually rumbles through my living room takes on a faraway quality. Icicles hanging from my front porch are prisms casting rainbows against the gray blue sky. Wintertime rainbows reminding me of the God of promises. In a world so different than my childhood world, the click of the furnace is the same gently ushering back the warm winters of 30 years ago. Snow days and my mom making scrambled eggs for breakfast while my dad shoveled snow and we were all together. My Grampa Gerstein still alive in heavy boots stomping into the house after clearing their drive while my Gramma tucked homemade afghans around me and homemade soup simmered on the stove. My dad would pull back the hood from his snorkel coat and his “Trent” hair would stand on end while my mom poured him a cup of strong black coffee. Today my boys “Trent” hair stands on end and I sip my strong black coffee and wonder at the differentness and the sameness of life marching through almost 40 winters. Winter is the gift of still and quiet.
I like that winter is cold on the outside and warm on the inside. There is something miraculous to me about walking in from bone-aching wind to enveloping warmth. Since childhood it has seemed like magic. It is luxury to feel my hands and feet thaw. The sharp tingle as the sub-zero assault retreats from my body and my skin absorbs the heat after coming in from outside. I like the smell of heated air against the icy inhale of winter wind. And the scent of wet coats and scarfs as they dry against the heat ducts. It all means we are safe and warm and winter didn’t get us. It is a miracle, it is a blessing, it is God’s provision that we are warm and pink-cheeked while winds howl and icy snow pings against the windows.
I like that winter means the earth is resting to get ready for new life and harvest and then rest again. God teaches me that this is the way of life; to rest, to live and to reap from the work and love and laughter and tears of it all. To store up and to feast from the treasures of the earth and of the heart. There is enough gained in the summer time to live safe and well-fed in the winter time. In life too there is enough joy to store in the heart so that we can survive the winters of grief.
I like winter. I like the memories of my childhood when we’d visit my grandparents in the evenings after a blizzard and feel like we were pioneers in suburban living rooms. Nothing but each other to depend on. With pizza for dinner or homemade soup we’d sit together looking out through darkened windows with only our own reflections looking back and realize that the faces in the windows were really all we needed at that moment; and forever. I had two grampas and one great big dad all willing to drag me across snowy front lawns on saucer sleds and two grammas and a mom to warm me with hot chocolate and cookies when I couldn’t stand any more snow down my mittens.
I like the smell of my dad’s heavy winter coat...cologne and coffee and cold (which has it’s own scent) when I take it from him now because it’s the same as then. I like my mom’s scrambled eggs and my gramma’s soup for the same reason. I miss my grampas but their faces are clearer in my mind when I’m looking out over a snow covered yard. If I’m very still and quiet like I have learned to be in winter; if I listen closely to the neighbor’s snow blowers, if I breathe deeply the perfume of strong black coffee and listen for the click of the furnace; I can see them again. Caring for their families. Reminding me I have always been beautifully cared for. I have always been warm in winter.
I like winter.