Winter Thoughts

It’s almost winter again. The stillness. The quiet. The cold. It is a time for introspection, a chance to review the year. Winter is an end, not merely a waypoint on the path to spring.

Some do not like the cold and the dark that dominate the season, yet it is part of the year, just as death is part of life. Winter serves as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of the world around us. It is a different kind of wonder that permeates the long night, and it should not be quickly dismissed.

Winter reminds us to turn inward, to pay attention to who and what is with us right now. The rest of the year we can spend outside, engaging the external world. For right now, we have time for ourselves and our ghosts.

Life has death. Day has night. Waking has sleep. And the year has winter. It is a holy time, a sacred time. It is the rest at the end of work. It is necessary for recuperating. We rush through it to our own detriment.

The snow blankets us with warmth. The stars and moon give us light. The wind carries secrets. If only we are willing to feel, to see, to hear. Winter is there, waiting for each of us. We may try to run from it, but we cannot run forever. And when we stop, she will be there, her arms wide, ready to welcome us to the quiet beauty she has prepared.

“for I do not know

if the ending will end,

or even if

I want it to”

Comfort

The wind had been too warm for too long. The summer spirits had held on, refusing to let the wheel turn. Finally, autumn chased them off in order to prepare for the winter winds.

The voices of autumn were not his; those voices were still a couple of months away. But autumn was friendly, a welcome change from the hostility of summer. The spirits of autumn were cousins to his winter companions, a kind of extended family. He might not speak their language, but he knew their intent.

Wandering freely, he watched the progress of the season and listened for the first whispers of winter. But the clatter of leaves falling said ‘not yet, do not rush ahead, enjoy the transition.’ And so he did.

The colors of the earth hung overhead, serving as a reminder that even far from home, we carry our mother inside us. And that no matter how high we reach, we will return to her one day. The crisp air carried the sound of the faintest rustle far and wide. And the smells! They spoke of a warmth within as a counter to the chill without.

Autumn knew her business. Magic was everywhere just below the surface; one needed only to know how to look. Winter’s magic was deeper, but more brutal. Autumn spoke of a mother’s comfort in the final days.

So he waited, secure that winter would at last come, and enjoyed this part of the cycle in which he was but an observer. The comfort made the waiting bearable. And everyone needs comfort sometimes.

Winter, with a Voice

They say it’s going to snow tomorrow.

“Who’s they?”

Will you shut up. I’m not writing that kind of dialogue right now.

“What kind of dialogue are you writing?”

Shut up! I’m not writing any kind of dialogue. I don’t need you, or any other voice, for help with this. I just want to talk about snow.

“Oh. Got it. Sorry.”

Okay, so… Tomorrow it’s supposed to snow. There is even a blizzard warning up for the afternoon. It’s almost enough to get my hopes up. But I’ve been disappointed so many times, it’s hard to get too excited. I know we got some snow last year, but it still didn’t feel like a proper winter.

So far, the change in our winter weather feels like the biggest personal impact climate change has had…

“Oh. A political post. You haven’t done one of those in years.”

It’s not a political post. I’m talking about winter.

“Yeah, but climate change is so charged with partisanship these days.”

Hmm. I suppose you might be right. But this isn’t about politics. Just that I worry about not having proper winters anymore. We never got a lot of snow around here, but when we did, it stuck around. Now we get melts in January and February. During my favorite season. It’s depressing.

Anyway, sorry the repeated interruptions. Sometimes the voices get restless. And if I haven’t done any writing for them in awhile, they get really restless.

Back to winter.

I have always found peace in the snow, in the cold of winter. The world grows quiet, still. Sound is muffled. It’s a time for introspection, for rest, for regrouping. It gives reasons for drinking hot tea while curled up under blankets and cats. A season of long nights, beautiful skies, and twinkling lights. It brings a softness and peace to the world. Without its pause, it feels as though the world will never stop. It will just keep going and going until it wears itself out or tears itself apart. Winter is our chance to step back and consider what really matters.

So even thought I might be let down again, I still have hope for snow tomorrow. Hope that we might get a little peace. The moon needs something to reflect off of, after all.

“That was nice.”

I didn’t ask you.

Attack on Christmas

Snow covered the ground and countless stars filled the night sky. The sun would not rise above the horizon for months. The world was beautiful and cold.

Two friends sat on the porch, which looked out over the whole world.

“It’s that time of year again.”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Aren’t you excited? You must have lots to do in order to get ready.”

“Not really. There is very little to do, honestly.”

“Oh, did you get all the gifts done early?”

“No, there weren’t many letters. Fewer kids believe anymore. Parents have taken over most of the heavy lifting. Surely you’ve noticed something similar?”

“Not at all. Probably helps that my situation doesn’t really depend on people writing to me. They just expect eggs and chocolate. That hasn’t changed.”

“You’re lucky, then. I’ve started dreading Christmas.”

“You cannot mean that.”

“It’s true. It just reminds me of how things used to be. I had to let go of 75 percent of my staff.”

“I know, a lot of them came to me for work.”

“That’s something, at least.”

“Actually, I could only take on a few of them. My work is really low maintenance. Most of them left.”

“Oh my. I wonder what’s become of them.”

“I can’t imagine.”

From inside the house came a loud voice. “Nicholas! You better come see this!”

They exchanged question-filled glances before standing and entering the house.

“What is it, dear?”

“Look.”

The television was an old model that sat inside a large cabinet. Even so, it seemed out of place in the quaint home. The news was on.

“… from all over the country. Christmas decorations have been torn down. Trees and presents have been set on fire. The authorities have not released casualty figures from the resulting house fires yet, but it is expected to be in the hundreds at the least.

“To repeat, there has been a large and well-coordinated attack on Christmas…”

His friend scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Well, Nick, I think we know what happened to the elves.”

The Spirit

The wind blew so hard that it was impossible not to hear the spirits that traveled along with it. It’s not that the spirit world is more active at the end of the October; people are just more receptive to interactions. Even without Halloween, everywhere there are examples of the world dying. When one’s mind is filled with thoughts of death, it is easier to hear spirits.

And when someone notices the spirits, it becomes easier for them to cross over and enter this world. They are not evil, but they are disruptive, for spirits do not see the world from our perspective. Good and evil are meaningless concepts to them. And their goals cannot make sense to us. So when there is interaction, misunderstandings abound.

So while it took on a human like form, and dressed in a long black coat and black hat, it could not ask for help in its search. As it walked, people instinctively moved out of its way, though they were only barely aware of it. Ignoring the conversation of its peers, it arrived at its destination and stepped through the wall.

The room was dark, with only the light from a television to provide any illumination. A cat noticed it and walked over to talk. She explained that this place was under her protection. The spirit would need to conduct its business quickly, and then leave, preferably without disturbing the other residents.

“Why are you crying?” asked a man who was sitting on the couch. The cat looked back in a failed attempt to placate him. The man jumped a bit when he caught sight of the spirit, but his brain must have immediately rejected the image, and he calmed down. “Please stop crying. For a second I almost thought I saw a ghost.”

The cat gave one last meow, “hurry,” before walking back to the couch. The spirit touched its hat in acknowledgment. As it walked past the man, he shivered but did not see the spirit again.

In the hallway, there was a table with a drawer. Whatever had drawn the spirit, it was inside. It tugged on the drawer. Unaccustomed to such things, it used too much force, and the drawer and all its contents crashed to the floor.

It bent down to pick up a piece of paper, but the cat was already there, yelling. “Begone! You are causing trouble. Out of my house!” The spirit quickly pocketed the paper and moved to exit the house.

The man had come to investigate – a bit slower than the cat – and yelled in fear when he saw the spirit walking. The spirit turned to go through another wall and out of his sight. In doing so, it knocked a photograph off of the wall. Now the cat was screaming at it to leave and adding threats. The spirit quickly passed through more walls, causing more disturbances, before finally reaching the safety of the outside once more.

The paper secure, and safely beyond the cat’s ire, the spirit continued its walk through the late autumn evening.

Winter Always Wins

Leaves at the mercy of the wind clattered down the road.  They were headed north, as the summer winds tried to have one last say before being driven out of this part of the world for the year.  The warmth wouldn’t last long, even the wind knew it; despite its direction, the unmistakable scent of winter was obvious. It was clean and crisp, the smell of quiet and stillness. All the noise of the leaves could not drown it out.

The struggle between summer and winter would last a bit longer, giving rise to a beautiful autumn, but the outcome itself was never in doubt. Winter would arrive once more and bring the world some much needed rest. Until then, the leaves, once vibrant and alive, would play out the struggle, caught by forces they knew but could no longer influence. They would be blown back and forth awhile longer. Eventually, buried by snow, they would return to the earth and help feed the next generation. In the end, winter always wins.

Indeed, already the wind has shifted, and the leaves headed back the way they came. A chill had snuck into the air, and the sun is already long into its descent toward the horizon. It won’t be long now.

Uninvited Guest

Without wind, the snow fell softly straight downward.  The sun was quickly setting, ushering in the longest night of the year.  The world was quiet and still, except for one moving figure.  A small person – perhaps a child? – trudged through the snow.  Up to a front door it walked and pressed the bell.

Light and warmth came spilling out of the open door in equal measure.  A man stood in the entrance and peered out at the visitor.

“Can I help you?”

The small face peered up at him but said nothing.

“Well, what do you want?”

Still, it did not respond.

“Do your parents know you are out here?  Go on home.”  The man shut the door.

Within an hour, the first guest arrived.  The child – for what else could it be? – was sitting on the porch.  When the guest inquired, the man stepped outside.

“I told you to get out of here!  You cannot just sit outside my front door.  This is private property.  Leave, or I will call the police.”

But it did not leave.  More guests arrived, and each one asked about the person sitting on the porch.  Every time the man came out and tried to make it go away.  Despite his threat, he did not call the police.  His guests and neighbors might wonder what had happened to bring the police to his house on this night.  While his guests showed momentary curiosity, the festivities of the night quickly replaced it.

At the end of the night, after the last guest had left and well after midnight, the man went back out onto the porch.  He was determined to get this intruder off of his property.  The night had not been ruined, but this had gone on long enough.

On the porch were the clothes the person had been wearing.  They were crumpled as if they had just fallen in that place.  There was no sign of the person besides the clothes.  No tracks in the fresh snow led away from his door, as all the guests had used the walk.  The man picked up the clothes and threw them in the bin on the side of the house. Then he went back inside.