By Jaime Collins
I have to tell you how I feel about you. You are special to me, and that makes me sorry for the way you’re always treated. So misunderstood. So disliked. Hated even. People talk horribly about you and grumble and curse whenever you come near. They say you hang around too long, and no matter what you do or where you go, you’re unwanted. You don’t deserve all that.
I’m glad to know you’re doing alright. It’s really great to see you again and to see you’re still going strong.
For me you’re way more than a season. You’re a celebration. You fill me up every year with thoughts and feelings and events and activity and food and incredible beauty. None of your unique personality will I ever get from any other season. Sure, cold makes me shudder, but like so many things in life, I find I just have to look a little differently to see you differently. I find joy in who you are. Like when I come back to the warmth inside, even my cold cheeks and hands remind me how perfect you are.
Without you, how would I ever really appreciate spring or summer or fall? Those long warm lazy days, the ease of venturing outside, the color of a blooming garden, or even the splendor of the turning leaves would mean little if it weren’t for you. There is no up without down nor short without long. You are the yin to our annual yang. Having traveled so many times around the sun, I know for sure, there is no splendor in summer without your wonderful wickedness, dear winter.
I do understand how humans are conditioned to dread winter. I also know that finding ways over that wall of fear opens up a new world. Even your darkness doesn’t bother me so much. I walk at night. I run at night. Over time I got comfortable enough I even regularly cross country skied remote woods and wilderness at night. Sometimes the moon shines so brightly through the bare branches, I could turn off my headlamp and just soar along the trails alone through the forest. Those nights with you I often felt so carefree, it was as though I were part of the forest, and that’s a feeling I’ll never forget.
Here’s my own personal favorite perspective changer: I don’t need to worry about dehydration or heat stroke with you. It’s just impossible to stay comfortable running and often even walking in summer heat, but you make it easy. If I get too warm, I just remove a layer or a hat. Get too cold, and I put something on. How simple but oh how wise, too!
Taking time to get to really know you, I better understand your true character. You’re so beautiful and such an amazing friend, I miss you when you leave. You and I have made such amazing memories.
So many extraordinary adventures with you are emblazoned on my mind. I remember evenings running through the streets and nearly running into deer that apparently didn’t know where they were going. Quiet nights with snowflakes falling gently on my face and sharp nights with snow stinging my eye balls as I ran into the wind. There was that one night you gave me quite a story to tell when my headlamp died as I bushwhacked my way through thick forest and back to civilization. There were nights as frigid as the runners of an old sleigh. Nights with the creepy eyes of creatures illuminated by my headlamp staring at me from the darkness. And then those just plain gentle nights with the snow falling so softly that the solitude made my heart ache.
As your days begin to linger and each of them grow a smidge longer and a touch warmer with each turn of the globe, I soak more of you in. I learned to pay attention to how your days lengthen over time. Doing so lifts my gaze upward and my awareness swells, and I feel a far greater connection to the grand mysteries of the Universe. Sometimes you’re subtle, and sometimes you’re over-the-top intense. But, you never fail to remind me I’m alive.
Especially this year. In this most inhumane and seemingly apocalyptic year. A year we’d all love to forget but whose trauma will haunt us the rest of our days. Over and over, you usher in a special beauty into my life and give me moments that take my mind off all the human suffering. Melancholy at times, joyful and exuberant other times, your beauty is diverse and manages at one time or another to trigger all my emotions.
Fact is, these unsettling times we’re in shine a light on what’s normally hidden. Some of those things are pleasant, like the depths to which all of us are so deeply connected and truly dependent on one another. Too many other things are especially horrid this year, though, and that fact makes it massively unhealthy for any of us to attempt to bear the pain of it all without a bit of respite here and there. If we were all to look more closely, we would see your calm and beauty, and we would all find a few moments of peace in you.
I know those moments are often difficult to recognize. Still, your delights are there for me whenever I’m willing to simply open my front door and venture out. You’re like a holiday gift that keeps giving. You present me with a multitude of chances to recover and to rejuvenate and to nourish my soul. You’ve taught me not to recoil from you but instead to rejoice in what you give us. Your monochromatic magnificence. Your cold but calm quietude. Your luxurious blankets of fresh snow. A warm cup of soup or a crackling fire even. Not to mention all the things to do!
Speaking of things to do, my family thought I was overdoing it when several years in a row, I waited until you put a thin sheet of ice on the lake’s edges before jumping in on Thanksgiving Day. Plunging into frigid water hurts. It hurts a lot. But I made this ridiculous leap to remind myself how thankful I am for everything you give me. It also allows me to bid farewell to warmer days in the same sad way you make me say goodbye to you every spring.
That you never last means I’m also thankful when you return. You’re an essential and natural part of the eternal ebb and flow that keeps us all bonded to this life-sustaining planet.
That’s a pattern that also helps us very imperfect humans practice patience. You teach other useful lessons, too, like to prepare for what lies ahead. To be mindful of big little things like the power of the wind and the essentials of safety. You teach us to respect life on this Earth – all life. I know I just wouldn’t be me today without you. From the time I was a toddler, you helped me grow strong and become resilient, so that I can live fully and fervently all through the year.
Now that I’m old enough to know you so well and wise enough to understand your true nature, I am grateful for you – exquisitely grateful – for everything you are and everything you bring us each passing year. I’ll always be your friend, and I cherish the time we spend together. You stole my heart long ago, and I’ll treasure you forever.