Sunday, January 03, 2021

winter landscapes

Winter has, admittedly, never been a favorite season.  Depending on when you ask me, you might get different answers as to what exactly is.  Spring, of course, brings an end to foul weather, blooming trees, bare legged outings, and my birthday.  Summer, as long as the extreme heat and humidity stays away, is lovely in it's long days that linger til twilight. In it's rainstorms that occasionally crash and roll through the midwest.  Beach going, woods romping, and al fresco meals,  and all the things I feel I never get enough of. Fall is a buckling down, a seriousness, but also a spookiness.  Sweaters and warm drinks and coziness and trees at their most gorgeous right before they lose it all.  

I love September in it's hovering between the two seasons especially, also the air that seems to smell of dusty classrooms, old books,  pencil shavings. It gives way to an increase in horror movies and chocolate consumption, but I've never much liked what comes after Halloween--the bare trees, the dirty ground, the real chill that settles in and stays all night, leaving the plants & ground frozen in the morning. It stays this way--in this rather dissappointing season forever, or at least it feels like it.  Usually, even Christmas and the holidays cannot save it, since eventually the tinsel and the fairy lights come down and it's back to the same darkness. In truth, the worst depressive episode I've ever experienced happened in January.  And every year, the dip happens just a little (though this past year, it's been happening all the time, so I've no idea what will happen this month. )  These months are just harder for me mood-wise, creativity wise. In the strangeness of my sleep patterns that have me often in bed too early and wide awake in the middle of the night.  How hard it is to gather myself to even wake up eventually or leave the confines of the bed in a chilly apartment and place myself gently in the shower.   In how even going outside is usually pretty uncomfortable and involves just a lot of clothes to even survive. 

To combat these feelings, I often joke that I love to throw an abundance of new outerwear at winter. If it's going to be quarrelsome, I'll surely feel better with a new coat or boots.  And sometimes it works.  But mostly I just have a lot of coats and the moths find some insanely tasty during the off months when they're tucked away, so some of them have holes I'll be patching before I wear them again. This seems an apt metaphor for something, but I am not sure what. Since it gets dark so early, there is a lot of strange time that seems like it's not useful at all. Too late to get anything done in my day, but not early enough to eat dinner or settle in with streaming.  In the library, I notice it less, but home these past couple of weeks it feels like I don't quite know what to do with these hours except maybe take a nap or doomscroll endlessly on my phone.  

It occurred to me as we were driving back into the city, as I stared at a lot of brown fields and bare trees, at that moment untouched my snow,  that maybe I was lacking in being able to find the beauty of the season.  That maybe this was important, especially in a season that doesn't have all that much to offer, and frankly, sometimes might kill you with exposure if you're in it too long or underdressed. . Outside of people who seem to like throwing themselves about in snow and ice (skiers, skaters, in other words insane people.), could there be something to find beauty within the season?  I mean, for someone like me?  Some people are really into snow, but what I see when I look at it mostly is a slipping hazard, wet boots, bad drivers, and even if pristine and white, it will be filthy by mid-day and then just a slushy mess full of dog droppings. Mostly something to be endured until it melts away, like most of winter. When people tell me they prefer cold weather, I assume  they are just being contrarian to the general consensus and/or mean to say they hate the heat and like moderate weather.  Cause don't we all. 

I started by making a list of things I like about winter.   Bare branches.  The landscape layers of gray and brown with a bluish tint.  The roadside grasses, when not snowbound, winter up lovely--the ivory feathers of pampass grass, reeds, and pussy willows. (when I was a kid, we'd pluck cat tails from the shores of Lake Wisconsin and I'd hoard them in the pockets of the van door and somehow was convinced they had some relation to actual cats.) When I was on a train traveling through the Cascades in late February, for a second, I loved the mountain winter..snowcapped and untouched, but also warm enough that the streams were still blue and moving and not frozen over.  I thought to myself that winter could hardly be bad in a place designed, by altitude, to be snowy most of the time.  (Fast forward a few days later when, on the way back, the train being stalled by an avalanche passing into Montana, we wound up on a scary bus journey through those mountains in a snowstorm and I was kinda over it.) 

Yesterday, I took down my small tree and mourned the lights in that corner of the room, so relocated a lamp from the bedroom to make up the difference, but it was a different kind of light.  Still I get angry at holiday decor up past it's welcome.  One year, I fumed over a bedraggled velvet ribbon on a light poll downtown that turned pink, then brown, and survived well into May. I hated it so much, likewise with trees that overstay their welcome and half priced aisles of leftover decorations in Walgreens. It's all a little sad.  Some people rip that tree down the day after the holiday..but I do like the lights and am always sadder when I finally need to put it away. This happened in my mothers house and happens in my house. The best years were the ones where I did not decorate at all, but somewhere there has to be a happy medium.

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