January 19, 2018

a wintry disposition

As an introvert, one is used to feeling slightly out of step with most other humans. My dislike of using the phone for anything but texts is as deep and unshakeable as it is irrational and incomprehensible to most people. Preferring to stay at home more often than not, dreading the noise and crowds at events, having to motivate oneself to attend even those things one actually looks forward to doing...all seem slightly daffy to extroverts, who, of course, make up the majority of the population. In a world of team jersey-wearing, sport-cheering people I find myself mostly alone in loathing sport and team, well, anything. I'd make a fine crazy cat woman, no doubt about it. But in no area do I so keenly feel odd-woman-out as in my love of winter.

It's not just that I can't fully enjoy summer (or indeed, spring, or autumn) because I burn so badly and feel so ill in heat and humidity. It's not that I am insensible to the charm of flowers and, in theory at least, balmy days ideal for picnics and garden teas. I love autumn's glory of changing leaves and deep blue sky; I feel a swelling joy when I see the first daffodils dancing lightly in the spring breeze, or the first butterfly of the year. It's not even just the fact that summer, where I live, is a time of disease-bearing and itch-inducing insects, poisonous shrubbery, venomous snakes, and oppressive heat and humidity, rounded out by hurricane season...No, it's more that I genuinely love and delight in winter. I love the bare trees, the grey skies, the frosty glitter on cold mornings. I love icicles, pale dry grasses, and the early sunsets. I like being folded gently in darkness, and I like being bundled up in soft woolens, and sleeping under layers of quilts and eiderdowns. Most of all, I love snow, and ardently wish that we got more of it and that each snowfall would linger longer. I don't mind being house-bound; in fact, I welcome the quietness of not having to go and do, the freedom simply to be. I feel a wondrous contentment watching snow fall. Nothing, not even the most exquisite rose, is as beautiful to me as the bright winter stars and pale moon pouring their light onto a fair, deep fall of snow at night.

Is it just quirky me? I am out of step in so many ways with our modern culture that looks to clock time and schedules and productivity and unceasing activity; perhaps I love winter, and snow, partly because it forces some kind of break in the artificial clock and calendar tyranny. When everything is closed down or delayed due to snow, when roads are not easily passable and prudent folk stay at home, I am gleeful. I feel protected, rather than prisoned. Something in me is thrilled when nature asserts its beautiful rhythm of rest, of turning inward, of hearth-sitting and sleeping until the sun rises rather than an odious alarm dragging one from dreams and warmth. And it's just so beautiful! Although I need to be goaded into walking much at other times of the year, if there is a good snow, I am happy to take my booted feet outside for a stroll. But only on paths and roads, because I love the pristine snow too much to smutch it carelessly. I shovel the walkway carefully, making tidy ramparts of the shoveled snow, and avoid exposing any ground or grass. Even as a child, I played carefully in the snow, minimizing any tracks and keeping my sled run narrow and minimally visible. I trod meticulously in my original track to the barn, and shoveled just enough to swing the doors open. To uncaringly muddy or besmirch a snowfall seems the crassest lack of appreciation for the beauty of it.

Even the darkness of winter, which is so hard on so many people, doesn't disturb me. I am far more likely to feel depressed in the heart of summer, with its glare and heat and general too-muchness. I feel as if I come back to life in late autumn, and am most myself in the days between Samhain/Halloween and Imbolc. Imbolc may, in fact, be my favorite holiday, with its quiet celebration of the light of hearth and candle, and its ancient homely rituals. I love the dark time, and the gentle lights of the house look kindly and inviting after the sun has gone early to bed. Feeding a fire seems to feed the soul, lighting a candle brightens the dinner table in more than one way.

I know that winter brought hardship to us in older times. I know, when putting my bread-crusts and suet-cake out for the birds, how important that little extra bit of food can be to them, and that we humans once lived much more like them, at the whim of nature. Warmth and stored food were literally a matter of life and death not so long ago, and I think we remember it in our very cells. Yuletide feasts once gave people a needed calorie boost, and heartened them to endure the remaining months of cold and dwindling stores. The hunter who brought a deer or brace of birds home in late January or February was bringing a true gift of life; the thrifty housewife who preserved plenty in summer and autumn, and managed the food stores so all were fed through to the springtime was daily working to keep her family alive and hopefully well. Farmers sweated in summer to cut and stack good hay for winter feeding of the animals, and doled it out in yard and barton with careful hands. Wood must be cut and kindling gathered unceasingly to feed hearth fire and oven, and it's not light work. Staying up at nights in the lambing sheds was (and is still) cold and weary labor. All creatures feel the bite of winter; cold and hunger are trials to every living thing. But winter brought gifts too: peace, and beauty, and a bit of respite from the work of farming, gardening, gathering, and processing that occupied folk from sun-up to dusk nearly every day. In winter, one could sit by the fire and work on textiles, or carve something, at leisure, knowing that there was no sowing, tilling, weeding, reaping, or storing up to be done. Wood and water must still be fetched, and penned animals fed, but the outdoor work had greatly diminished. Winter wasn't only the cold time, the hungry time, the wolf time---it was also the dreaming time, the resting time, the magic time.

Perhaps one thing that people resent about winter is the way it brings us up against our animal nature...It reminds us that once we were dependent on nature's bounty, on the weather, on the cleverness of our minds and hands, on luck, for our comfort and even our simple survival. But I think that is a very good thing for us to keep in mind, especially in these days of ecological impoverishment and climate change wrought by our own insistence on setting ourselves apart from nature, from seasonal rhythms, from change, from limitations of any kind. Perhaps winter has still a great gift for us all, even for those who do not love it as I do, in giving us a reminder of who we really are and where we come from. Maybe it offers a visual illumination of life as it evolved to be: a dance of opposites, a waxing and waning, the sanity and sustainability of the non-steady state. Perhaps, in the very scarcity and bareness of winter, there is a message of equal value to summer's bounty and lushness, a reminder of the great, wild, tender beauty of ENOUGH.


10 comments:

  1. Beautifully said. I was always a summer person, as a child—most probably because that was the time of the long summer holidays from school, and what child doesn't love them?—but now I find myself more drawn to winter, to the darkness, the slowing down. I think the truth is that I've come to love what each season offers, but there is something about winter that I crave nowadays. And in a warming world, I think we need to look to the cold and the darkness for what it can teach us. (And I'm the same with my phone. Texts only. Any time it does ring, which is rarely, I jump in alarm. But then I don't even like using the landline. I've never been a phone person at all.)

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    1. yes! i love what each season has to offer, but things are so disordered now...and winter is speaking to me louder, more clearly, than ever.

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  2. I am also an introvert and a wintersoul. I feel withered and miserable all through our long humid summer, which lasts many months here. And I hate talking on the phone - I no longer even have a landline. Funny, I know extroverts are the majority, but I've heard from so many introverts over the last few years, it really seems as if we are allowing our quiet voices to be heard. (Or rather, read, because we sure aren't giving speeches or phoning around!)

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    1. yes, i think the introverts are coming out of the closet, finally... the internet seems to have amplified our voices somehow. :)

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  3. Oh yes, so much this, all of this ... everything you said about introversion and the beauty of winter expressed exactly how I feel about it! Beautiful post.

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  4. "Even as a child, I played carefully in the snow, minimizing any tracks and keeping my sled run narrow and minimally visible."

    I understand this. Deeply.

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    1. most people don't...how lovely that you do.

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    2. Ah, I understand that deeply too. There's lots of snow here and I've walked carefully in the footsteps of the cows and ponies so as not to disturb the land. I thought I was alone in such strangeness, but it seems not! Hurrah for Winter, for Weirdness and most of all for ENOUGH! Thank you.

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    3. thank you for the kindly comment!

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