Winter has come early, it seems. The ground has frozen solid in the unusually cold weather, and instead of November rains we’re getting snow — or, this afternoon, sleet. Long blue shadows remind us that the sun is as low now as it will be in late January.
But it takes some intermittent thawing — or an admixture of ice — to seal the snow cover to the ground. The first snows still lie lightly on the grass and leaves, and can walk away in the tread of a boot, exposing the year’s unfinished business. I get impatient for the pristine midwinter desert. It’s like starting to explore some wild-looking rock outcroppings in a city park, and finding them in use as shelters for a homeless encampment.
Maybe things are better that way, though, all mixed up and impure. Last week I heard the flute-like calls of tundra swans over the roar of the well driller, and it brought me back to the present, standing on the powerline right-of-way on a cold and overcast morning, feeling suddenly that all the broken pieces fit together just the way they were. Everything belongs! It’s a useful illusion to nurture this time of year when our physical separation from the land is brought into such sharp relief, and the cold — not to mention the currently dire economic news — makes us crave comfort foods and fellowship and sentimentalized family holidays.
What if, instead, we were to take the inhuman harshness as a teacher? What if we were to say no to extra comforts and conveniences, no to the random urge, no to commodification? The mere thought is enough to make me shiver. Somewhere one still needs to hear that primal Yes.