“Oh, I LOVE winter,” younger me used to say. “It’s so much fun, you can cross country ski, and snowshoe and make snowmen and it’s so cozy.”
I suppose it was last winter that did me in. So now, winter has become my time for escape. And my escape in winter is reading about physics and astronomy. As the white stuff piles up and daily living is more of a chore of shoveling snow and hauling wood, to curl up and read about the tiny world of quarks or the vast world of galaxies is delicious.
Right now I am reading Lisa Randall’s new book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (selected by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings as one of the top 15 books she has read this year—a list, BTW, guaranteed to make you feel inadequate.)
Randall talks about dark matter, the concept of which I couldn’t quite grasp for a long time, but now I do. We can’t see dark matter because it doesn’t reflect light and we can’t feel it because its force is too weak to have an effect on us at its level in our everyday lives. But we know it exists because in greater densities it exerts a gravitational force. And not only that, but there is much more of it than the matter we can see. So the truth is, we are literally surrounded by dark matter.
As I grow older, more experienced, less sanguine, and more settled into convenience, the awareness of the vast mystery of our Universe is a tonic. And that, perhaps, is the real fountain of youth.
I just got back from Arizona where it was both a pleasure and a relief to hike without snowshoes, pat green plants and feel the sun on my bare skin. The severity of this winter in Massachusetts was grinding and I didn’t even realize how beaten down (and weird) I was becoming until Richie and I left it. After a few days of hiking in the stupendously gorgeous red rocks of Sedona, my paranoia about what Mother Nature was planning to inflict next dissolved and my sense of confidence, not to mention perspective, reinstated itself.
We watched hummingbirds flit amongst the cacti and, at an outdoor café, laughed when magpie stole a packet of sugar off a table, then ate it in the nearby tree with sparrows scarfing up the leavings. I picked up a lemon that was on the sidewalk. A lemon! On the sidewalk! Fallen from a tree, just growing there!
Naturally, after a few days of this Eden, my thoughts turned to the people who winter down here—snowbirds, the ones we hardy New Englanders like to scoff at.
I scoff no more. Now I think they’re onto something. And what’s more, I’m starting to think that RV’ers are also onto something. We stopped at Whitewater Draw, a spot in the desert near Bisbee where Sandhill cranes gather. Next to the oasis, a sign at a dirt parking lot informed us we could camp there for free for up to three days. A few RV’s were already parked. How cool is that? You drive your home around the country, park places, plant out the pink flamingoes and lawn chairs, watch the cranes come and go in the sunrise and sunset.
I remember talking to Dario Pegoretti at an early NAHBS when we were both taking breaks, and we jokingly planned a commune in New Mexico with all our frame-building friends. The idea still appeals to me, only now it would be RV’s. We could all drive around in our RV’s, park together in a wagon-train circle, ride bikes (for the cyclists), have a writing prompt session or two (for the writers) and generally have a ducky time avoiding winter.
What do you think? Am I just getting old or is this a ReVolution?
I don’t know where I got the idea that winter was a quiet, introspective time. If we’re not shoveling paths, we’re raking the roof; if we’re not raking the roof, we’re digging out the generator; if we’re not digging out the generator, we’re filling the bird feeders; if we’re not filling the bird feeders, we’re hauling wood; if we’re not hauling wood, we’re cleaning off cars; if we’re not cleaning off cars, we’re shoveling paths….
I’m way behind in my indoor work; my writing schedule has gone to pot, I haven’t even started on my website; all that yarn I spun is still waiting to be woven off on the loom, and I haven’t even ordered my seeds yet. My upper body strength, however, is flourishing.
Buddy, the Adventure Maltese, is currently not having any adventures because he is confined to running around outside shoveled paths since the snow is twice as high as he is. He makes the best of it, though, galloping back and forth in his white canyons. He’s a plucky one that Buddy.
I’m thinking I’d like to take advantage of all this snow we’ve got and go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the pond.
If I can ever carve out some free time.
Not much daylight these days. Not only that, but the unsettled weather of December keeps things pretty cloudy. The natural world is hibernating—going inward, conserving strength, assimilating experiences.
So much less stimulation outdoors allows me to notice the over-looked parts. On my walk, I saw the shocking green of the moss, and the equally bright red of the fire berries. I become absorbed in the world of the bird feeder. Just yesterday, I identified the American Tree Sparrow, a bird so common I wouldn’t have given it a second glance at another time. But perched on the feeder amongst the chickadees, tufted titmice and goldfinches, it became a rare and precious sighting. Splitting wood is a pleasure; the frozen wood lets go with a satisfying kunk. The slightly insane call of the Pileated woodpecker makes me shake my head, then smile.
Indoors, by the cheery woodstove, I plan out my winter projects. All those things that demand close indoors attention—weaving, writing, revising, computer work, (I will learn some Photoshop this winter) are anticipated with pleasure. My mind will be stimulated and I will garner a sense of accomplishment.
Winter, by its sensory deprivation, is the perfect time to let the imagination expand, creating worlds and dreams.
To everything there is a season.
There is really only one thing to write about this week and that is SPRING. After a long winter we’ve had three days (three days! count ‘em!) of sun and above freezing temps. While my spring fever is not yet at the giddy stage, I do feel a low thrumming of anticipation running through me. Each morning I hear more birdsongs and the other evening I sat outside to stare at the one patch of open water near the house. As dusk deepened, the sky became Maxfield Parrish blue and a perfect crescent of a moon glowed above the pines, reflecting in the water. I was waiting. And then I heard it. A sleek ripple and a snuffle. The otter. I sat and listened as it hunted, and then, hunting successfully, as the sounds turned to chomping and scraping.
As winter loosens it grip and spring takes over, I rejoice in the fullness of coming to life again, of emerging from hibernation and wrapping my arms around the activity of spring. You have to earn spring. No instant gratification here—and it is all the sweeter for it.
Okay, I’ve changed my mind. I re-posted something I wrote last year for this week’s post, and then I looked out the window at the grey and brown and white that has been here for quite a while and I saw a flash of yellow at the feeder. A goldfinch, just starting to turn! We may not think spring is coming, but the birds know it is. The goldfinches are beginning to turn that amazing shade of yellow, and bird songs are different now–more sing-song, more carefree, less terse.
If I stop and just listen for a moment, I think I can even hear the icy grip of winter loosening. In the brook that has more laughter, in the ground that has a hint of cushion, in the minutely beginning swelling of buds.
It makes my insides swell with nourishment, to see it and hear it.