Summer in Winter


Today, at the height of the sun, it’s 7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Trapped in the house, my husband, Joe trolls the internet planning the spring planting of a friend’s garden. He is avoiding doing the taxes. Can’t blame him. I write, not in my study where the 100-year-old windows invite the chill air, but in the psychological warmth of our kitchen. The dogs dawdle around aimlessly, nipping out for a quick turn around in the yard, chasing the squirrels who raid the bird feeders shamelessly.

The winter season starts after Thanksgiving, a lovely holiday which, in our family, doesn’t even require a turkey only each other’s company. Whether sunny or wet, it’s still possible to go for long post-dinner walks along the ocean past the old houses on Penzance Point. There are few leaves anymore but there is still color in the beach grasses and willows. Cottony clouds scuttle by. Chilled but not frozen, it’s a delight on returning to play scrabble in front of a fire and sip tea before turning in for the night.

But then Christmas looms. And, with it, a frosty wind and the sinking feeling of a long gray winter ahead.

I put up and decorate a real tree despite the knowledge that in three weeks time it will be drooping and, the ornaments, precariously slipping southward. It will be unceremoniously dragged out the front door and hurled onto the lawn for eventual disposal.

I am not a skier or a skater preferring not to slide around on the ice anymore than necessary. This is a loss to my husband who gleefully awaits a coming blizzard. I worry instead if we have any salt left from last year and arrive like thousands of others at Home Depot to discover every bag has been purchased. From the cellar comes the door mats and boot trays. I tried years ago to get my family to come in the side door. But like many sensible plans, it was tossed aside. An assorted heap of boots accumulates just inside the front door along with dog coats, hats, scarves and gloves. The front porch becomes the resting place of shovels and ice chippers.

Winter. It wears hard on me. A season of introspection. A season of waiting for the warmth and green and hopefulness of spring. Such a time of longing and uncertainty. When I was fighting depression the pale milky skies of a “sunny” morning made it hard to get out of bed. Perhaps winter continues to remind me of those times.

Mercifully, today the sun is shining brightly. I bring into focus what keeps me going in this dreariness. Looking up from writing this I see the brilliant red of cardinals flitting across the frozen garden. Chickadees chatter at the bird feeders until the Blue Jays dive bomb scattering the crowd. They remind me of my sister, Helen and that makes me smile.

Joe leaves his task to bring up an arm load of wood. He starts a fire in the TV room hearth. It crackles and chirps. He brings me a cup of tea. I’m grateful for the warmth of the fire, the tea and his companionship.

On the counter are daffodils, the first to be found in the market. I bought them yesterday when they were tightly furled in their brown papery husks. Now, happily in warm water, they are unfurling sunshine and filling the room with scent. Pink hyacinths in another vase add their musky sweetness.

We have decided to stay in on this Saturday evening as the weather report talks of snow and we’re feeling too lazy to shovel our way out. Joe adds more wood to the fire. I will start dinner soon. A rich stew filled with sautéed onions and carrots and lots of red wine.

Later, a good snuggle. A good book. A good winter’s sleep.

I think of Albert Camus’ wonderful quote;

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Right here in this moment there is contentment. And that is more than enough to delight and warm my soul.

Mason Gehring