Pre-winter Thaw

I ran across a quote and it really hit me. It didn’t just hit a chord but played a full concerto for me.

You’ve been in darkness, loneliness, and nothingness for so long. And one day, without you really noticing it, you’ll be moving into the sun, and in love with the world, and you’ll be glad you’re still here.

It reminded me of a penance my confessor once gave me. He told me to go outside, tip my face up to the sun and feel, really truly feel, the warmth on my face, and to let the ice inside start to melt, just a bit and to keep doing that until one day I would realize there was no ice left to melt.

It’s fall in New England and although the last day or so have been warm, the cold, dark, damp days are coming. I can’t wait! Yeah, you read that right. I’m living with RA and excited about damp and cold. I obviously have a screw loose. I listen to people speak wistfully of the days growing shorter, the flowers dying off, the leaving falling, and the birds heading south and instead of joining them in their melancholy, I feel this slowly building excitement, like a little kid in the weeks before Christmas. I wait all year for the first snowfall…and every snowfall after that. February’s blizzard left me ecstatic and I’m anxiously awaiting the first flurries of this snow season.

As I walked the dog yesterday in the chilly early morning darkness, I had to ask myself: why? Why is it that I get so excited about watching everything die off and watching the dark and cold settle in, only to feel a pang of sadness when the first crocuses poke up in the spring? Is it just me settling into a reflection of my inner ice queen self? Do I still have thawing to do?

I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. As as in my habit, I went to the beach with my breakfast and found the storm passing offshore had kicked up rain, wind and crashing waves. The few people who had ventured near the seawall stayed in their cars, warm and dry. I parked and in the roar I heard, ‘Come play with me.’ Without even thinking, I left my tea and bagel to get cold, took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and headed to the water. Not to the edge of the water, but right into the cold crashing surf. In the back of my mind, I remembered that I had work at home waiting for me, I had Eugene home sick from school and I had a doctor’s appointment. And. I. Didn’t. Care. As the wind hurled pointed rain and sea spray in my face, I felt so alive and so at one with the wildness God had called me into. Nothing else mattered. I was in love with the world around me, even with the guy in his car who told me I was crazy when I finally got bowled over backwards by a wave and dragged my soggy self back to my car.

Why do I love the cold? Because God uses it to grab my full attention. It wakes me up. It forces me to deal with it head-on. Getting knocked over backwards by a cold wave means I need to change into warm, dry clothes. The shorter, darker days mean I need to turn on a light to see my way. When the snow appears in my driveway, I’ll have some work to do before I can go anywhere. It’s not that I’m still frozen inside, it’s that the fight and work of the coming winter mirrors what I’ve already been through. When the wind bites through my jacket and my bones ache from the cold, I pay attention. I slow down. I see things I would normally miss. I appreciate life more. And on those days, I am so glad I’m still here. It’s quite possible that I thaw best in winter.

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