There’s a drag that comes from lack of sunlight. That’s for real, and the lure of sleeping in on a winter morning is a real temptation.
I’m not a morning person. We know who we are. Years ago, I was in a carpool with a woman who was a morning person. I’m not sure she ever stopped talking for the entire ride into work. It worked out fine. She didn’t seem to mind that no one responded. Other than her and the driver, everyone else in the car was asleep.
This is how it works with me. I open my eyes, and even before the sleep fog clears, a whole litany of unwelcome thoughts line up for attention. Really…can’t I just get some coffee or OJ?
The thought that wakes us at 3 am feels like a heart-thumping immediate crisis. What if there’s a new killer COVID variant? At 8 am, it’s not quite as dramatic, more like a mental listing of every conceivable worry and bad outcome I might need to deal with that day, or anytime in the next six months, or the next six years.
So how does this relate to winter? In the winter, I wake and the sun’s shining through the shades, or it’s not, and either way it’s something to be happy about. Well, maybe not happy, but relieved. It’s something like the winter clause. I have good reason, loosely based on science or nature, to postpone, to hesitate, or to give in. To succumb, to hold back, put off, delay, and dispense, everything I don’t want to deal with, in effect and with great affection, on the pretext that it’s winter.
January’s a fresh start. It’s also a cold, unembellished, minimalist reality.
Branches stretch tall in a cold winter sky. The way they’ve always done. Like some fabulously strong declaratory sentence.
Sometimes those trees come down. I’ve seen them come down, and that’s a sad day. But when I look out, I see strength. The ancient strength of magnificent trees who throw all caution to the wind and stand between me and the heavens. As is their way.
Tall white pines and a path that takes you. It doesn’t lead you, it takes you.
Do you know the long soft needles of a tall white pine? A pine tall enough to meet the sunny sky in the last moments of a December day. North Country meets Norwegian Wood meets what? I don’t know. It’s gentle. Or it’s pain, or it’s a place to leave behind.
When you choose your favorite lyrics to a Dylan song, it’s hard to find THE lines. I have this thing – sort of a pretty unimportant guiding principle. If I single out the same musical lyrics more than once, if it’s a sequence of lines or a few words, if those are the words I remember or I want to remember after I hear a song, then I guess I love those words.
In the darkness of my night In the brightness of my day
Bob Dylan works a magic with images nobody else can do. And in the middle of all that you find words you plainly love.
Walks are good for thinking. They’re settling. You get time to spend pondering whatever’s on your mind.
There’s something I can’t quite bring to focus. And it’s not what I’d expect.
… I’m ready for cold …
I’m ready for a cold December morning when a few flakes of snow float in the neutral nothing of a dismal day, or whatever they do when it’s December and not yet the hard bitter cold of January’s winter.
If someone did a Top Ten list of plants that inspire, ferns would be there. Mayapples would be there. Giant oak trees would be there. Flowers that show up on their own, and bloom at the edge of a paved street, for sure would be there. I’m talking about plants with personality, plants that stir the imagination, plants that make you smile. Plants that make you write a story. It’s a short list.
A field of wildflowers, as far as the eye can see. That kind of imagination.
Ferns. A stegosaurus stomps the ‘earth’, the way we imagine the earth looked millions of years ago. With each step, the ground thuds as the dinosaur moves past vegetation…huge, prehistoric ferns. Yeah, that kind of imagination.
So, ferns. This is what I love about ferns. Well, for one thing, they hang around all year. They survive the winter. Like we do. They’re not fresh and robust when they meet the first light snowfall, or the last cold icy storm. But they don’t dry up and wither away, or lose all their leaves like some bigger, stronger, more impressive ‘plants’, otherwise known as trees. Buried under January’s coldest, iciest cover, the fern hunkers down, close to the ground. You scrape away the slush and snow and hardened icicles. And there’s a fern. I have respect for that.
Is there another plant that comes to life with the charm and charisma of a fern? I know, somebody’s gonna come up with some mushroom that pops up overnight in an interesting way. Nope, forget it, not good enough.
You can smell the scent of ‘earth’. And take in the filtered light shining from above through the branches of those tall awesome oak trees. Peculiar little mayapples cover the leafy-rich surface. And fancy green ferns unfold.