Some years ago–another lifetime it seems–I once had a dog named Gitzy. And it’s safe to say I am the only person who ever loved her. To be honest, she wasn’t all that lovable. And she’d already been returned to the shelter where I found her twice by the time I came along. She was cute enough–black and wiggly and with a silly grin–but she was the most high-strung, anxious creature you have ever known.
The week that she was adopted from the local shelter, just a few months old, it snowed. It was February, I think, and it snowed several inches. And here I was, a new puppy to house-train. I remember very clearly pulling on snow boots in the wee hours one night, dawn still a good while away, to take her outside. She was so little no leash was necessary, and so I plopped her gently down to do her business.
Everything around us was pure white. Pure cold. Pure still. Pure dead of winter. That deep, deep part of winter that happens just before it all gives way to spring, that part of winter that makes you wonder if spring will ever come at all.
Against the snow Gitzy looked like a pile of Kentucky coal tumbling about, and I laughed at her as she tried to navigate the snow with her short little puppy legs before scooping her up, congratulating her on a job well done, and getting us both back inside and back to bed.
I loved the winter then.
The vast landscapes of it. The stillness of a cold, snowy night. The promise of life that I just knew was pushing against the frozen ground, ready for just one sunny spring morning to begin growing again. I loved that winter made everyone slow down. Take a breath. Just…be.
I loved the winter then.
But the truth is, then, I had yet to really know what it means to feel as if your soul is locked in winter. I had yet to really know what it means to feel the cold chill of loss and heartache pushing against you with fierce intensity. I had yet to know what it means to feel as if everything around you is simply…bleak.
I loved winter before I ever really knew what it meant for it to settle into your heart and make it seem like spring might be a mere pipe dream.
It’s one thing to drink in the visual loveliness of snow and twinkly lights and glorious full moons and the romance of bare branches against a dark clear sky.
It’s another thing entirely to feel the icy shards of broken dreams and shattered expectations (even of yourself) grip your heart the way ice works it way down an old pipe and freezes it hard.
For the last few years, winter has not been my friend. I’ve been cold, deep in my bones. Perhaps just aging, perhaps an iron count that is never quite where it needs to be, perhaps my psyche manifesting it’s own change and struggle and chaos via body temperature. Whatever the reason, I’ve needed warmth more, searched out sunlight more, felt the weight of the weather more.
Today has been the first real snow of this winter in my part of the world. It’s been cold for weeks–very cold–but no snow. And finally, today, it came. “Mommy! It’s snowing!” my Curly Girl hollered from upstairs and at the sound of her glee I ran to the window to see for myself.
Sure enough, it was snowing.
And in that moment, I pulled from deep in the recesses of my memory, a similar day, when she was only 3 or 4, and the snow had begun to fall, and she ran to the French doors that opened on to the patio of the house we lived in then, and she squealed. Squealed! Loudly, and with such joy. And she threw her chubby little preschool arms out wide and said, “Mommy! Daddy! Look what God made!”
Look what God made….
She has no school tomorrow, but she’s been sick so I sent her to bed early anyway, and as I was walking through the kitchen after, turning off the bright light of it, because otherwise that bright light sneaks into her room at night, I stopped, just at the sink, and caught a glimpse of outside.
One of my favorite things about the house we live in is that there is a big window over the kitchen sink, and it looks out into a fenced backyard and I love that I can see what’s happening out there most any time of day.
Tonight, what was happening out there was more snow. A strong breeze rippling through the branches of the huge tree that graces our backyard. The brightness of the snow reflecting against the sky so that is was all the most beautiful shades of grey and white and shadow.
I stood there for a moment…and for a few minutes, I remembered what it was like to love winter.
It was bleak, certainly. But it was somehow also beautiful. And before long, even if the days will seem so long between now and then, spring will come to the Bluegrass, and with it my grandmother’s daisies, currently taking their long winter nap under all that snow.
Bleak. Cold. Bare.
But underneath it all there is, I am certain, life.
Beautiful, abundant life.