winter

winds

High pressure meets low pressure, and we get loud howling winds. Fast-moving currents…not the ones that move miles aloft in the jet stream…I don’t think we’d hear those…but the noisy whistling winds that whip through our old favorite branches in the backyard.

Winter’s best sounds. One is just a whisper…the soft hiss of icy crystals falling on us from a dark, starless, snowy sky.

The other is a roar.

This is about the roar. A cold, noisy, winter night, and the roar. The howling winds that bend branches to the point of breaking. Those winds.

Me?

I’m inside.

I’m enclosed and surrounded by architecture, and busy with life. With heat, with electricity. There’s this and there’s that, and I’m hunkered down, as if I can ignore what’s going on out there, a hundred feet, two hundred feet above the rooftops. Still, there’s the hum that finds its way past the insulation of walls and windows, past the white noise of every appliance, inside, that cycles off and on.

It’s hardly exceptional. Barely a simple blink or nod, on an evening in the middle of winter.

But it’s not simple. It’s unexpectedly comforting.

Compelling?

It’s as if there’s something I’m missing this winter. The noise of the wind comes like a note to self, a reminder, of the icy cold that comes at the darkest, coldest, emptiest part of an eye-watering cold winter night…when my hands, my gloves, clutch a scarf and the top of my coat up close to my neck, and up over my mouth. It’s almost instinctual. We move to hold onto that little bit of warmth released every time we exhale. But the chill of the howling wind is shrill, strong, and indifferent. Try as I might, it takes my breath away.

That’s comforting? Yes, it is.

winter

wintering

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.

winter

january

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.

Bob Dylan

white pines & music

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.

2021

november

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.

Hmmm … cloudy skies and long walks.

2021

sound it out

To this day, I love the soft, hoof to dirt rhythm, of a gallop. Clop clop clop clop, horse and rider, dust flying, in an old western. Clop clop clop clop. It’s sound and picture and smell and dust and dirt and powerful horse, all in a background sound that fills the brain.

When I was little, I played tap dance. With patent leather shoes banging and making as much noise as I could on a linoleum floor. It was silly and noisy, clicking and knocking the heck out of those shoes and that cheap floor. I love. I love that sound too.

But tonight it’s a cold dark winter night, it’s late, and I’m half asleep. Tick tick tick. The slick, scraping sound of icy sleet hitting windows, brushing glass. Tick tick tick. I’m inside, and feeling protected. Safe, I suppose. Yet the sound calls, barely calls, beckoning me from a desperate, a desperately soft floating dreamy winter numbness. Tick tick tick, calling me out from some sad sense of empty waiting. Tick tick tick. Out there in the dark. Tapping at the window. Tapping at the subconscious. It taps me on the shoulder. “Wake up. Listen, girl, listen. Yeah, girl, you. You hear that? Wake up, girl.” I get up and look, I guess hoping to see something in the darkness besides sleet hitting the glass. Out there where you know there’s nothing but dark and cold. What did I hope to see? I think something to make me look, to rouse, to look up and smile. Yeah, something to shake the numbness, to make me look up, and about, and smile.