(originally written in 2008, re-posted for current relevance)
After the summer that came and went without anyone ever knowing it had been there at all, I am still sitting alone in my room over the same task I was assigned weeks ago and my thoughts now so far down a path I am thinking it is hard to catch up to them again, ever. Or to explain them to anyone, even myself. Nothing is real and tangible these days, it’s all just mist and truths in dreams.
I opened my window and the air coming in smelled of winter. A few days after autumn started and already I can smell the frost and behind my closed eyelids see the twinkling lights of Christmas. My heart takes a leap of joy as a smile forms on my lips and the crisp breeze travels to my lungs.
From the back of the closet I longingly pulled out my black winter coat, which keeps me warm in the worst of weather and I smiled at my biker boots standing right there underneath it. I thought to myself “I cannot wait for it to be winter”. Preferably with a lot of snow and sunshine in between. I want to take long walks. Through the city and out of the city, past trees that are sleeping. I want to breathe deep while in my ears Matt Pond sings a sweet song. I want to wrap a scarf around my neck, wear my silly woolen hat, my mittens and my biker boots with thick socks in them and trod around in the cold for hours until my nose freezes off or I get hungry. And even then I would rather unpack a crumbled ginger bread man from my pocket than go home. I want to take my journal and record my thoughts when my feet are tired and I am sitting on a bench, people with dogs passing me by. I want the cold to make me feel alive again. When I am freezing I will finally feel every muscle in my body, every part of me will be there, achingly making itself noticed and I can take inventory and see if I lost anything along the way. I will feel the shivers traveling along my body, starting in my lower back and spreading to my stomach, running down my legs and back up to take a hold of my arms until I shudder and shake them off. And I will start to run, my arms flapping like those of an unselfconscious child still full of enthusiasm not worried about looking silly. I will run as fast and as long as I can until the cold pierces my lungs and I will fall into the snow and stare into the pale sky while the wetness makes my coat damp from underneath. Maybe at that point I will break out in song.
“If you ever wanted anything
Then you have to disagree
Make some time with the fire’s coals
Who really knows if it isn’t cold”
Standing at my window lost in my fantasy of winter I think if I close my eyes tight enough and listen to the silence in the weather, I can smell the fireplaces that are going to be lit when the thermometer drops, and the dead earth, the leaves rotting away under all the mushy brown snow. I can hear the muffled steps of children making new footsteps where no one has gone before them and the faint sound of Christmas songs playing in every store in the city center. And with the icy particles of winter wind a sense of connection settles onto my skin. Thousands of miles away I can see a face, reddened by the temperature and the exhaustion and I can’t wait to meet him.
“I can be quiet
Wish you could hear me”
I stand frozen in my posture and fractions of another life slide across my face and pass me by. The ice is so unbelievably thick in Wisconsin in winter. You never get ice like that around here. And once in my childhood it rained and then froze so fast, all the trees had a coat of ice around them and when the wind blew they clunked against each other and played a glockenspiel symphony. That was a magical day.
Many people hate winter and the cold, but I remember a friend of mine who said he hated the heat more, because you can always put more clothes on to shield you from cold, but there is a limit to taking clothes off to relieve you of heat. I believe the cold makes us more aware. It brings out the truth. You cannot hide from all the cold. You put on layers and layers of clothes in an effort to hide, but the cold always finds a way in and only the resilient retain a smile and a cheer. The most spirited ones defy the rules of everything dying and come alive when it’s cold. The people grumpy when it’s cold are the ones always grumpy, but usually they hide it well when the sun provides a cozy cover and chemical illusions. I dare the winter to bring out the truth, show us who we really are, point me to my corner and make me whole again. I’d rather be freezing on the outside than frozen on the inside.
Under all the items of clothing you wear when it’s cold it’s hard to express anything, you are restricted from using body language or intricate gestures with gloved fingers. You have to use your words and people do it too little. I applaud the cold for wrenching words from mindless souls. Nothing registers as real if you never give it words. You cannot run from sounds you have spoken, you can never take them back. This permanence is a good reason to hate winter, but it’s no excuse. To stand in fields of snow and speak words from deep within is beautiful purity you can only get in winter.
Winter makes you dig for things. Your car underneath the cover of snow, the safe way to cross the icy road, your gloves at the bottom of your pocket, life underneath the exterior of death. If I ever you wanted to say something true, winter is the time to do it. There is nothing left to distract us, no girls in short skirts, no beach parties, no barbecues, no feel good radio hits, all that’s left is what you keep from dying in the cold.
I’d never trust someone who falls in love with me in summer time, the sun makes everything look too pretty. I don’t care about pretty and sunny and colorful. I like the core of things, all the dispensable disposed of and no chemical illusions altering the mind. Summer lies and people lie in summer. When all you can see is my eyes underneath all the winter accessories I am wearing and all you can hear is me singing matt pond PA and talking about crickets when you fall in love with me, that’s when I’ll believe you, because at the bottom of things that’s who I am. I am winter and I like it that way.