Let Winter Nights Enlarge
Winter arrives, just in the nick of time.
I’ve been rushing and rushing pulling the threads of my daily to-do lists tight, holding my breath for what seems like months now as I stare down the barrel of a glorious three week holiday break which—Ready-Set-Go!–begins today. Instead of a long sigh of relief, I have a whole kettle of items shoved from the back burner to the front, dozens of ways to fill my between semester days.
And then something happened: On the first day of winter, along with fresh snow—perhaps the 3rd storm of the year–my galleys arrived.
I opened the box, pulled out a book and took the copy back to bed. And I read.
Rough Beauty tracks forty seasons of mountain living; in it, I tells stories of spring and fall and summer and spring–but it’s winters that I wrote of most. They left an impression in my skin—not the shock of cold or the persistent high altitude wind, not the hardship remote living or the inherent loneliness–but the luxury of emptiness, the long curve of nothing. Winters on the mountain exist in my memory as the space between breath, as the moment in meditation just before you realize you haven’t moved or had a single thought or felt the creak of your limbs for a long long time.
This morning, the day dawned a crisp 9 degrees. There’s ice on the single pane glass in the bedroom and storm windows I have yet to close. In the dark before the sun came up, I breathed in the cold and, for just one dreamy moment, thought of my little cabin on Overland Mountain where December meant I often rose to the sight of my own breath and tumbled from bed to put on my winter woolie, hat and gloves, and tug on sheep skin boots to light a fire. Living at 8500 feet, I could not ignore the fact of low light and short days, or the quiet of the winter woods, the feeling of absence on the mountain, the long dreaming nights.
I miss those days. The wide silences, the feeling of letting everything go. It’s harder to do here on the edge of our prairie town, where I can jet to the store to pick up forgotten celery for tonight’s roast chicken and cars hum along busy parkways on two sides; where the snow is never deep enough to force a day at home.
But my book arrived on the first day of winter along with new snow and as far as I’m concerned that is a clear thunk on the head from the cosmos: Time to slow the fuck down. The past twelve months I have been too much in the sun, juggling cavalcades of things. It’s the dark night of the year and we should each revel in it. This afternoon I will put a chicken on to roast and start the bordelaise sauce for our Christmas roast. Cooking always calms me down, always forces me to pay attention to what’s in front of me right now. When Greg and I sit down to dinner in our living room lit with strings and strings of lights, we’ll toast the long winter nights and my new book, which features Greg’s watercolors, holding this life in our hands and marveling at the sheer beauty we’ve made.