Winter makes us smug in the north country. We have long dark months of unrelenting cold, snow drifts taller than our cars, and that piercing cold sunshine that offers no heat. The icicles that hang off our roofs grow to thirty feet. They are daggers to dodge when the first real warm days come. We bundle , we shovel and we feel alive. We have a sense of purpose; we persevere. Cold is a stimulant. Even the grumbles who complain and fret are happy. Winter punctuates their gloomy conversation. It gives them a happy burst of ammunition. The cold keeps us all sharp.
The soft gray light and regular whispers of snow add interest to the bare landscape. You walk outside with the dogs after your husband has shoveled and you feel loved and tended. You walk purposefully with your breath freezing as you head out to check on the chickens. Inside the chicken house the ladies are clucking and eating some corn. You brought them potatoes too and they love you for it. It is all very satisfying and you feel righteous as you smell the soft pine and stand underneath the red heat lamp. You have taken to thinking of that lamp as the Bethlehem light every night when you look out your bedroom window and see it burning warm and bright.
You need winter to appreciate summer. Into the quiet grey light, the crusty white birch, and dark, near black maples, comes Valentine’s Day. A day in a month of near constant cold. Branches with red felt kisses, glittering silver mercury glass to reflect that cold sunshine, and tall red candles burning next to a cheery fire warm and feed the house. Red amidst the grey. Love among the ruins. It is all a reminder of the promise of spring.
There are tiny tight buds on the pussy willows. Every day they grow a little bigger. They are our secret and reminder. Life has been here all along.