Saturday morning I set out early into the barely there mist. Quiet. Still. Had my neighborhood become a ghost town? Were we the only home still inhabited? I imagined the abductors saying, "Hey, did you get that green house? No, but Joe did." Only Joe didn't, and here we still are. Even the dog with the menacing growl, whose solid presence has forced me more than once to the other side of the block, does not appear. I am alone, walking past industrial waste piles of snow where discarded Christmas trees and browning garlands have been tossed, awaiting rescue by city trucks. Every year I tease I am going to sneak onto porches and pluck Christmas wreaths tired and well beyond their "Use by ..." deadlines. Do people not notice as they pick up the morning paper or answer the door to their children's friends how unwelcoming these wreaths look now that January is soon to be February? Perhaps I should start a business. For only $5 I will remove your wreath in a timely fashion. Pay in advance, of course.
In spite of this eccentric irritation, I happen to love winter, and in fact, winter is my favorite season. I catch myself even praying this year will be the longest, the worst winter ever. True, I sigh with others, "Yes, isn't it awful? Sick of it? Yes, me too," but I adjust the glasses on my nose, turn another page and reach for my mug of hot chocolate. I wrap myself in a shawl. I poke the fire. I turn on only enough light to see the book. I move slowly, but steadily through winter tasks. No drawer left unorganized. No letter or email unanswered. No goal unchallenged. No hope unaddressed. The refrain on my lips is "This year I will...,but on my own terms and without zeal or threat of punishment.
Winter's uncluttered, unlittered nature moves me patiently from day to day without surprise of color or blossom or smell of dirt or invitation to jump, to charge forward. Instead I stop. I rest. I delight in Sabbath time. I stretch slowly, deliberately, quietly, so as not to awaken any other bears in my cave.
I value the harvest of fall, the energy of spring, the secure lingering of summer, but even more I covet the lairs of winter, the hidden passages, the unlit corridors, the streamlined views, the bareness of the horizon. The action coldly stopped, frozen without conscious time. I've done what I can all those other days and months and now it is time to leave what is undone and to unwind the sweater till once more it is yarn. It is sheep. It is essence.
Ah, this is it. Winter is essence and offers the time to recall, to re-call my own essence.