The cacophonous song of low flying honkers might have said it better, the
distant bugling of amorous elk might have said it louder, but nothing spoke
more clearly than that first glimpse of white-topped mountain. It spoke of
the promise of the seasons. A more violent, more rugged, yet somehow more
gentle time was on the horizon. I, for one, was glad.

 

Perhaps winter isn’t the best of seasons, maybe no better than spring,
summer or fall. All hold their own mysteries and fascinations, and the
beginning of each never fails to bring a quickening to the pulse and a lump
to the throat. Who knows the reason. It might be something as simple as a
sense of change, something in the grand design which throws us into new
modes of thought and behavior just as the soul starts to itch and the
doldrums hit high fever. Man cannot live by bread alone. Neither can he live
(well) with the monotony of a solo climate. It might be something as complex
as biological memory, a forgotten remembrance of old instincts and ancestral
motivations which linger somewhere in our synaptic pathways, tempting us to
howl or burrow or sleep. It might be a lot of things. The only thing we can
say for certain is that winter looms just over the horizon, certain and
unyielding and full of mystery.

Still, and although I will most likely choke on these words by the end of
February, winter has become my favorite part of the year. More solid than
the other seasons, stubborn and relentless and egocentric as hell, winter is
the shrill rantings of a small child who will not quiet, the barking dog who
remains out of boot range. It is recalcitrant lovers and a glimpse through
mortality’s portal. It is that, and more.

The vision of a silent curtain of white stuff, frosty tears dripping from
twilight eyes, creates an air of myth and reverence. Before long the clang
of swords will begin in Valhalla, the sparks from the Norsemen’s epic
battles once again floating softly downward to coat Mother Earth in a
blanket of white. The bone-chilling wind, it’s banshee howl railing against
glass and wood (and sometimes flesh) brings us into close encounters of the
meteorological kind which are unknown in more moderate climes. Winter is
real, a tangible presence, something to which one must acquiesce graciously
or remain forever frustrated. Old King Canute could not order back the tide,
neither can we raise the Fahrenheit. In winter, even the mercury sleeps. I
welcome it.

 

Of course, it was not always this way. Not so many years ago I would lie on
a winter beach, soaking up tan, running for the coat closet should the
temperature hit 65°. That seems a lifetime ago, and maybe it was. I didn’t
know how deeply I missed the change. I didn’t know what it meant. You see,
it is not just the snow and the cold and the slate-gray sky I cherish. It is
something more personal.

Winter, for we who live here, is our time. The hectic pace of summer is
gone. The Winnebagos and Air Streams do not crowd the roads, the foreign
plates remain in foreign lands. The hills are alive with the sound of
silence, and for me, contemplation sets in. I like the cold-dark times
because I often have a cold-dark nature. Winter is solitude and books and
dead quiet. Nostalgia and reflection and plans for the coming of
green-shooted life. More than anything, it is a re-charge of the soul and an
escape from the madding crowds. Beautiful, this season soon to be. A good
time. Our time. My time.

The honkers are honking more regularly now, the elk are looking for dates
and making loud elk noises. Their message is clear, they say it well. But,
on this mid-September day, a lone, snow-capped peak says it best.

I look to the sky and smile.

Soon, I think. Soon.