January 15, 2009
I probably shouldn’t be writing this right now. It’s only January 15.
But I did make it through the darkest month of the year, so I’m going to risk it.
I’m feeling bold.
I have a theory; I have a plan.
Once upon a time, I think I chomped through the days of winter with relative youthful ease.
Last winter, though, I had a rough go of it. I hesitated. I lay in bed for long hours. I got soft and slow.
For the record, I love snow, the four seasons, the descent into winter. But last year I surfaced into spring knowing the weight of winter in the mental sense–in the lost frozen breath sense.
Part of it I blamed on other things—work, health, and otherwise.
But even my doctor complained about the high percentage of cloudy days that winter; he did this as I lay stretched out on an exam table while he chopped out my history with the sun.
This winter, he’s stilling giving me scars; I’m still rocking in front of the picture window each morning, bathing in a stream of chilled sunlight.
But I’m executing the plan:
Gym memberships are not my savior. For many years, I thought the companionship of other sweaty souls running in place on machines while staring at a television was my solution to winter loneliness and fitness. No gym membership this year.
The darkness, I have decided, is my friend. Instead of uncorking a bottle of wine with the setting of the sun, I strap on a headlamp, put on the reflective jacket, and head out into the night with my pooch (who has his own reflective jacket).
We pull hard on the edge of the evening, refusing to submit.
Sometimes in the streets. Sometimes in the woods.
Sometimes in solitude.
A moon can soften the landscape, etch out the mountains and trees in friendly companionship.
In the night, everything feels faster.
The snow—it catches you, softens the blow, when you fall.
Flying down a hill with only the small fan of light illuminating the immediate trail, every upcoming turn and obstacle hides in the shadows.
It is a bit like life—how the future hangs so close, so unknown.
It’s good practice: to move forward with faith, a small snowplow of caution, a small squeal of delight.
Sometimes I go with a friend, turn a quiet Tuesday night into a private revel.
Two beams of light in the pines, shrieks of laughter (maybe fear) on the descents, a trio of dogs fanning out into the trees to track the deer.
And sometimes, I go where the crowds are.
For all the winter hibernation that takes places in these mountains, folks have a remarkable ability to rise to the occasion and rile it up.
As though their heartbeats depend on it, they gather.
Last week, it was the tradition of the Full Moon Ski Party.
Kegs, bonfires, music.
Silhouettes of anonymous skiers striding through the night.
I learned a while back that if I met the physical pain halfway, if I gave it some of my own energy, it didn’t seems so unbearable.
I think the winter might be like this, too.
Meet it out there.
You might find some beauty in the darkness.
JENNIFER DUFFIELD WHITE wrote this as the thermometer threatened to dip to -20F. She went out. Numb toes led to more theorizing. The wine is now open.