Monday, February 24, 2014

The singing cardinal of winter

THIS LONG WINTER has been hard. Winter is a hardship.

Hard for our wild relations, who struggle to find food and stay warm.

Hard for bloggers (weather woes are widespread, from California to Canada to Devon).

Hard for lovers of the outdoors who are not equipped with high-tech cold weather gear and must retreat too quickly into dry, furnace-fired, unwild air.

Hard for homeowners who live on corner lots and must shovel out their walkways and driveways by hand, in a winter of 50+ inches of snow (ahem). The frost line has crept down so far into the earth that even in the southern half of the state, underground water pipes have frozen and burst.

Hard for the roads--which, after months of warming, refreezing, chemicals and plow blades, have given up holding themselves together and have already disintegrated, leaving potholes of epic dimensions--and the drivers who must negotiate them during blizzards, Winter Storm Warnings, Snowmageddons and Snowpocalypses.

In previous winters, I would have been whining about winter with the best of them.

I don't know what has happened, or how it's happened, but my inner kaleidoscope has shifted and all the colored shards have lined up in a less pointy and jagged configuration. After decades of living here, finally I accept that winter is a time of hardship.

A sensible position--but one I've mostly managed to avoid up to this point.

Anyway, how ridiculous is it to resist winter? It is a fact impossible to ignore or wage battle on. Resistance does nothing to make it go away--it just puts one at odds with what is beyond our power to change, with what is ever-so-emphatically-real and HERE.

And resistance to reality just makes it impossible to love your life and where you are in it every day, doesn't it?

So, thinking of winter as a time of hardship feels right to me. If a person isn't experiencing this season's hardships, then she isn't being present to it at all. And I want to be here, not constantly living a life wishing I were elsewhere.

The paradox is, as I let go of resistance to the hardships of winter, these things became something to just get on with and negotiate, without drama or martyrdom.

Hardships are hard; but it doesn't follow that "hard" equals "bad." (I make this distinction to myself because for most of my life I have been exactly the kind of person who sees "hard" as "bad.")

But the hard-not-bad hardship is not the only thing to notice about this winter.

Just as much, more than anything maybe, is the beauty: A balm, and a blessing, and a long, cold, strange song of north wind.

And oh my love, my shining white ice palace of a home, with your snow-heaped silences, your singing cardinal at dawn, your white radiance flooding through every window and your utter and exquisite loveliness from dawn to dusk, you bring tears to my eyes. You fill up my heart as never before, and I am grateful.


  1. There’s what looks like a little cardinal on your header pic. I have always loved those birds in winter, because I used to see them in a snowy landscape when I was a child; a bit of red in the white world. Yes, the climate is very different nowadays; and we’ve got to accept it as there’s no place to go to get away from it. I just woke up & it’s so hot & dry in here: that’s this winter for me: hot and dry. I’m glad if you’re able to be present now—I wish I were doing that, but I’m thinking about other places and putting a notice up on the notice-board of the universe that I need to move someplace more hospitable and healthier and with a ‘real’ winter, with snow & icicles. People think I’m crazy as I want to move up north. Maybe I am. But my ancestors come from the Great White North, so I’m losing out on the energies derived from the cold.
    I’m being reminded now more than ever that if we don’t constantly maintain the way humans have chosen to live, things fall apart as quickly as the pavements you describe. The other creatures just live & die day-to-day, but we have to control everything… imagine being like them, just living for one day at a time and seeking what we need each day, instead of some vague dependence on electrics & city water supplies. Well, I wish I could change it all right now—but I don’t have to: I know that nature is changing things for us, whether we like it or not, and that it will alter our sense of reality, which I think as something that may allow us the possibility to change and grow. But hardships are the most powerful teachers I’ve ever had; I hope for the best.

    1. I am imagining it, Reifyn. Powerful teachers all around, luckily they are patient with us and will wait for years for us to finally be ready to learn. :)

  2. Such perfection, Carmine. This is so what I needed today.
    Winter is hard.
    What winter brings is hard.
    Not just the physical difficulty, but the introspection of hibernation.
    Kali sings in the winter, I think.
    I'm going to read your post again now!

  3. This got me thinking about what Clarissa Pinkola Estes says... mountains were made by earthquakes. It has been a challenging winter, and that sounds like a deep frost line, yikes. What's harder for me than winter, is that our culture doesn't allow me to go as fully into the dreaming time as I need to. I often feel in conflict with the urge to hibernate and the cultural demands that remain the same through the seasons. I do my best to guard my winter quiet with a vengance, but it isn't always possible.

    1. I know what you what Reifyn commented above, how our culture tries to control nature and make every season the same, and doesn't make accommodations for the needs of our animal bodies--to sleep until it is light, to move rather than sit in some unnatural position for hours at a time, to have seasons of quiet to balance the seasons of growth and activity. It is like a wall between us and the natural world and I respect your efforts to stay in integrity with the seasonal and daily cycles. It's how I want to live, too.


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