The Light Within Us

Today marks two weeks since we arrived in Vermont. It has snowed about seven times…..not heavy snowfalls, but enough so you know that it has snowed again, and everything is kept clean and pretty. I wanted snow, a fact which people keep reminding me, as in “You wanted this,” implying, “Don”t you dare complain!”

I am not complaining. If I had to get up and go to work in the morning, I would admittedly whine about it. I don’t like driving in it! But in spite of more terrifying experiences driving in icy weather than I care to remember, I have never stopped loving the snow.

So here we are, ‘reverse snowbirds’, spending the winter in Vermont! Charlie is being a fantastic sport about it. He doesn’t like the cold, he says, but he seems to be getting into it. He couldn’t wait to get the fireplace in this house up and running, since Virginia, our friend and gracious housesitting host, had never used it.

We have taken a lot of walks, and it never ceases to amaze me how much better it feels to live in the cold when you make sure to get outside. When you are dressed for it, it is usually not uncomfortable, with the exception of when there is a frigid wind. When  I get out in the cold, I end up walking further and longer than I originally planned, because it feels so damn good. Because I feel good……alive, strong, invincible. Invigorated.

And is there anything better than returning to your cozy house after such a walk,  bringing the positive energy back with you, feeling jazzed up by the fact that you didn’t let a little weather defeat you?

While if you stay inside all the time, the cold seems more formidable, more threatening. The thought of going out in it becomes ever more daunting. You must rise above it.

People love to complain about the weather. The heat….the cold….the rain….the snow. Perhaps this is because the weather is one thing in life over which we have absolutely no control. We like to have control, so it bothers us that we have to acquiesce to the weather. And thus we complain. We COMPLAIN.

What if we admitted that we were powerless over the weather, and focused on acceptance and making the best of it?

We have friends, Graeme and Karen, who live in Saskatchewan, Canada, where they  have a very cold, very long winter. Take a look at Graeme’s wood pile! These are people who have come to terms with their place on the planet, with it’s beauty as well as its demands.

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Woodpile, courtesy of Graeme Wesson

In all fairness and for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that we actually met Graeme and Karen on Isla Mujeres. Like us, they have taken to spending long stretches of their winter in the tropics. But by no means is it for the entire winter. They had their first huge snowstorm early in October this year, but they won’t go to Mexico until mid-February. And then, when they return in April, they will still face snow, and several weeks of winter weather.

They are amazing.

From the years that I have lived in Vermont, I have a bit of that pioneering spirit in me. I guess it is something that either you have, or you don’t. The cold makes me feel very alive. It awakens something in me that just is not stirred in the warm weather, and brings a clarity of vision, a razor sharp awareness, to my being. It makes me grateful.

Tonight the temperature is predicted to be -5 Fahrenheit, much colder with the wind chill. It can be a little scary when it gets that cold out. You don’t want your furnace to break or your car battery to freeze. I remember, back when I lived in Vermont full time, going out once at night during a sub-zero deep freeze. I was walking on the street feeling the snow squeak under my feet, and I thought the very strange and chilling thought that in such weather, if you wanted to murder someone, you could simply lock them outside.

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But mostly, when I take a walk in the evening, I see the glow of warmth from inside the houses pouring out through windows onto the quiet snow. I see flickering Christmas tree lights through translucent curtains. I see smoke curling out of chimneys against the winter clouds. I see black silhouettes of trees against the purple twilit sky. And all of this makes my heart overflow with the ache and pride of being human.

I recall that when I was a child in northern New Jersey, winter was a joyful feast for the senses. Sledding, ice skating, hot cocoa. All the holiday lights. Perhaps those childhood roots are what still make winter a joyful time for me. And I think this common history is the reason that Charlie can rally by the fire and share in my joy.

All four seasons are lovely, and each has its beauty. But winter holds the most magic. It is not magical that we find the light in the darkness, each and every year? Is it not magical that many of us still keep a tradition of cutting down a live evergreen, dragging it into our home, and whimsically decorating it? And is it not magical that still we sing, make love, bake cookies, and care for one another through the deep cold winter? We don’t just survive. We make the best of it.©

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