Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Winter and Spring

This winter, I’ve been thinking about curling up in the snow. It’s been a terrific season for snow and I think now as I look out of doors, I can see a good heaping five to seven inches of it. The garden is in a lull under it. Snow is soporific for the plants. They stay quiet and idle and dream about the time when they open their flowers, continue on with their lives.
    I’ve been wondering what it must be like to crawl under the snow and be a woman under the snow. Would my eyelashes turn to black ice? And then the irises of my eyes turn to blue ice? What would someone think if I rose out of the snow, the cracking of frozen ice accompanying as I stood up? Would they think I was dead and now alive? Or would they think I was the Mistress to Jack Frost and they knew he had a woman all along.
    I think I would be a bit spooky if I laid under the snow and then came up, breathing foggy air. I think I would like to catch the glimmer of the sun now and again, see a warm human face. I would take a walk, fold my arms together, click my tongue. I would go down Lincoln Ave and then cross McKee and then Wilson. I would walk to my favorite street and head down under the crabapple trees, barren and still. There’s no destination on my favorite street. I just like the situation of a few of the houses and the three crabapple trees so close that their branches intertwine. In the summer, they’re all different colors, rose, mauve and white. I have truly fallen in love with those trees and dream about them all the time. Someday too, I might have three crabapples, so close, their fingers intersect. I would put them in a tight row and they would be three odd ducks together, all different colors in the springtime.
    Springtime…that word would wake me out of the cold and dust. I would rise up, and a woman would gasp and a car would drive off the road but I would rise up and head down the sidewalk, to the house that has a thousand bluebells in their yard in the springtime. I would head down to those crab trees and stand for awhile, first on one leg and then the other, looking up. The trees would look down at me and then I would be forced to climb the middle one, high as I could. I would sniff the wind and even in all the frost and cold, I would catch the merest thread of spring. Then I would kiss a budding branch and head back down. I’d cruise back down that sidewalk, taking care to keep my arms close to my chest. I’d breath easy and then fall back into the yard, rolling, burying into the snow. Like a mole. My breathing would grow slower and slower till it barely was.
The trees pop like magic in the spring. They could really, raise anyone out of the slumber of cold and death.

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Winter Aconite & Snowdrop

Spring is whimsical and wary right now, first appearing in a patch of sunlight and then fleeting away in an ice-cold breeze, only to reappear a little later in the liquid song of a redwing blackbird. I wear my winter coat one day, a hoodie the next, and then it’s back to the winter coat the next morning as a heavy frost sparkles on rooftops. Only recently have I given up my thick scarf, though if there’s a wind tomorrow, I may have to pull it out of the closet and wind myself up in it once more.

None but the bravest flowers are blooming, the winter aconite and snowdrop. Winter aconite is a small yellow flower that’s easy to overlook; it remains shut until the sun has deeply soaked its petals, then pops open like a tiny jewelry box to reveal gold petals centered on delicate pistils and stamens. The snowdrops this spring huddle close to the ground, nearly lost in the mud and dead leaves. As of yet, there are no daffodils blooming—their leaves have come up only an inch or so out the brown ground. They are cautious and since it freezes each night, I cannot blame them.

Beyond the flowers there is the ground itself: a muddle of browns, thick with the rotted tree leaves and the dead foliage of last year. There is nothing lovely to see here, only the form of the land itself. It swells and slopes up from the river, lies low along the horizon, and finally drops into a ditch.

On an unexpected day in early March, once the snow disappeared, city workers came to clean up the young trees and invasive species that have been growing avid and unchecked along the creek near my home. It is the first time I can see the contours of the land clearly in all the years I’ve been living here, and I’m struck by the curves and lines that slope down towards the creek, a rollicking bed of dark brown that makes a strong contrast to the bright blue overhead. The undulating land here is small but it’s a dream, a reason, a mysterious being that wraps through the neighborhood’s mind. Soon enough, this dark and curving space will be clad in green, heavily wreathed by plants, bushes and eager saplings. But for now, it is bare and exposed, revealing the dark space between winter and summer. This is where the wind snaps cold like a knife, but the brilliant sunshine keeps calling everyone out despite the drear.

Tips on Surviving the Never-ending Winter

It’s been a long, hard winter. Now that it’s mid-February, the cold days have started stealing into my bones, urging me to stay in bed and sleep until the warm weather comes. As much as I long to take a three month long nap, there’s stuff to be done and living to do.

I’ve gotten more intentional about warding off the winter blues this year and not let myself, mentally or physically, wander off into a nearby snowbank and fall asleep. I’ve been observing and writing down little notes to myself on what lessens the gloom. These notes have become guideposts of sorts, gently illuminating the path through a difficult winter.

  1. The first guidepost may be the most essential: drinking hot beverages continually and consistently helps to ward off the deep cold. I brew a small pot of my favorite breakfast tea blend in the morning, switch to ginger and lemon herbals mid-day, and then return to caffeinated teas like black or green at night. Other people love coffee and others their tisanes. Find one or many and slurp away happily all day. Hot drinks are so deeply comforting when it’s cold and dark.
  2. I’ve learned to take walks even when the weather is crap. Obviously if everything is sheeted in ice, a walk isn’t going to happen but for the those other days, time willing, I make an effort to head outside. There’s the exercise aspect but more than that, it’s important for my spirit and soul. I walk to de-stress, to come in contact with a bigger world than my own, and to climb out of my circular thinking. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that clears junk out of the mind and soul. Our bodies evolved to walk over this earth and so when we participate in it, the old rhythms occur. Walking is a way to feel freedom. And it’s a way to fight too. I feel incredibly alive upon coming inside after walking through high winds and bad weather.
  3. Reading extensively helps to cast off the smothering feel of an endless winter. Last winter I read Alexander Pushkin and discovered the joy of reading Russian literature during the dead of winter. This month, I read City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, one in a pair of sisters that wrote during the mid-1800’s. City Folk and Country Folk is a delightful satire, ridiculing a variety of “city folk” and everyone else besides. Among the cast of characters is the intellectual Ovcharov, a dead ringer for Austen’s Mr. Collins. The book centers on neighbors visiting each other, eating each other’s food, drinking each other’s tea and generally getting on each other’s nerves until they all decide to stop visiting one another. Needless to say, I adored this plot line.
    And after a three month long wait, I received The Library Book by Susan Orlean from the library with two week checkout period to read it. No way was I going to read part way through, return the book, and then have to go back into that long waiting line. I set up a rough estimate of how many pages I needed to read a day to make the two week goal and then started. To my surprise, I enjoyed having a book reading goal and  diving into Orlean’s generous and easy-flowing prose every evening.
    My last read for this month is Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom. February is Black History Month and the perfect time to read his work. I’m only a few chapters in but his thoughtful and beautiful prose has pulled me in hard into the tragedy of his story and it’s hard to stop reading his eloquent prose.
  4. Spring will come. It feels so far away and even the evergreens and pines are looking haggard but it will come. When the sky is a certain shade of blue, I remember that it will. I remind myself of this daily.