A Snowy Adventure …

Have you ever been stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, Illinois? I have. Just a couple of days ago, in fact.

It all started out innocently enough. After a looooong string of snowy, cold, and gray days, we finally had a couple of days of sunshine this past Thursday (or was it Wednesday? Hmmm …) and Friday. On the first sunny day, we decided to head out in the evening for a little family drive. We were all feeling a bit stir crazy from the pandemic and the cold and the snow. Hubby and I haven’t even been able to walk because it’s been too cold. It was so nice being in the car, just enjoying the sunlight and being outside the house. Of course, I neglected to take my DSLR with me on that trip, and we had the most glorious sunset that evening. It was bold and magnificent and awe-inspiring. I grabbed some pics with my phone, but I felt dissatisfied with them, overall.

So, when Friday dawned with sunshine and blue skies, I was excited. My whole plan was to head out in the afternoon, about an hour or so before sunset, to enjoy the light and, hopefully, grab some fabulous sunset pics with my DSLR. The whole day was sunny and gorgeous. Cold, but gorgeous. Until it was time to head out for pics. Like clockwork, the clouds rolled in. It was like the Universe was trying to tell me something.

I refused to be daunted. I had planned to take pictures, and that was what I was going to do! I sent my “RAWR!” out at the Universe, and determined we would head out for sunset, after all. Hubby and Darling Daughter were more than willing, even with the cloudy skies. Have I mentioned we are all feeling more than a little stir crazy?

It was not a wasted trip in the least. I love Winter Sky. It’s almost hard for me to put it into words. There is something so peaceful and compelling about the way the skies turn pastel and soft during a Wintery sunset. I feel like these muted skies happen often in the Winter, but particularly so on cloudy days. It’s almost like I can look at those beautiful skies, with their soft pinks and purple-toned blues and blue-grays, and I can breathe again. I feel stress fall away, and my soul is uplifted. Winter Sky is like pastel watercolors that paint themselves before my very eyes. Sunset is a slow and unstoppable process. It marches across the sky at its own pace. And yet, I find I cannot take my eyes off of it. I could sit for hours, just watching the sky change colors and begin to darken toward night.

But, much as I love it, this story is not about Winter Sky. This story is about being stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I don’t know if all of Illinois is like this, but our town is weirdly surrounded by rural land, roads with no visible road signs or names, and corn fields. Lots and lots of corn fields. Our town is not big. It has around 100K in population, and the back roads lead to other, smaller towns that surround it. Most everything is flat, which means there are not many landmarks. This is particularly so in the Winter, when the corn is gone, and the fields are bare and full of snow. It doesn’t take long to get turned around or completely lost out in the midst of those back roads that snake between those fields.

This is exactly what happened on Friday. We were following the sunset, trying to get whatever photos we could. And, before we knew it, we were completely turned around and a bit lost. Not to fear, though, because we had GPS. And all wheel drive. What could stop us?

I’ll tell you what: S-N-O-W.

Our GPS took us down a road that was not plowed. We saw a sign saying it was not plowed, but the snow did not look that deep. This was our first mistake. And, clearly, it shows that we don’t know what it truly means to live through a snowy winter in Illinois! The GPS was pointing us down that road, so we headed in that direction. Once we got a little ways into the road, we realized the snow was much deeper than we thought. And we were in our very low sedan — mistake number 2. We got stuck once, but we managed to get unstuck and felt that we had no choice but to continue moving forward. We couldn’t really turn around and head back because the snow was too deep for that. Was this mistake number three? Maybe.

We made it a bit farther before we got stuck a second time. By this time, we were well and truly STUCK. We couldn’t back out. We couldn’t go forward. We couldn’t dig the car out enough to get it moving. Basically, we were at “leave the car here until Spring”. It was not pretty. And it was getting dark. And remember how I mentioned that a lot of these roads don’t have visible signs? If you are from here, you know exactly where you are at all times. But we are clearly not from here. We had no idea where we were.

I was the only one in the car wearing snow boots. So I got elected to hike back to the nearest house while Hubby and Darling Daughter tried to get a tow truck. I was not privy to all their efforts, but I know it involved a disastrous call with AAA. By the way, if you are ever stuck in the snow in Illinois, don’t bother calling AAA. They won’t even try to come help you. They won’t even try to figure out where you are! There was a second tow company that was closed due to illness. And then, my hubby finally called the tow company that actually came out and rescued us. Of course, since we didn’t know where we were, Darling Daughter had to figure out the GPS coordinates so that the tow truck could find us.

While all of this was happening, I was hiking through knee-high snow and 19 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. I originally thought the house was only about a quarter of a mile or a mile away. It turned out it was probably closer to two miles, and it was through deep snow the whole way. The whole time I am struggling through the drifts and the ruts in the road, I kept thinking to myself, “Self, why were we so stupid? How in the world did we think we could get through all this dang snow?!?”

My entire walk through the knee-deep snow was for nothing. Just about the time I got to the porch of the house, Darling Daughter texted that they were on the phone with a tow truck, and that I should come back. Well, I take that back. She texted just after I struggled up the house’s icy steps onto the porch and knocked at the door. Guess what? No one came to the door. So it was a wasted trip in more ways than one. I sighed and carefully made my way back down the icy steps. And then, re-traced my way through the ruts and the deep drifts all the way back to the car. It’s Sunday evening, and I’m still coughing from all that cold air, by the way. And I’m still sore as heck!

By the time I got back to the car (after tripping and falling into a pile of snow), the tow company had figured out where we were. They told us to sit tight, and one of the drivers would be to us in about thirty-five or forty minutes. And so, we waited. And tried not to think about how we were in the middle of nowhere … in the cold … in the snow. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. It was peaceful and quiet. And we had some good family time. We laughed and talked and shared memories.

Eventually, we saw the tow truck come up behind us. It was some distance away, but by this time it was dark. We could see the headlights. They parked and stopped for the longest time before, slowly, turning around and leaving. I looked at Hubby and said, “I think they can’t get to us.” But my tone was one of disbelief. It never occurred to me that the tow truck might get stuck. And yet, that is exactly what happened! The first driver got stuck twice. He shoveled his truck out both times, only to get stuck again. Eventually, he realized trying to move forward was futile.

The company owner called us and told us that the first truck was stuck and not able to reach us. He was coming to us with a bigger truck, so we should just sit tight. He was out of town on another job, and it would be about another hour before he could reach us. But he was coming. And so, we waited some more. By this time, it was pitch dark. And, of course, there were no clouds, so we couldn’t even look at the stars while we waited. Tempers were running a bit shorter by this point. Darling Daughter was hungry. Hubby was annoyed with all of our bad life choices. I had to go to the bathroom. Plus, my clothes were all wet. Remember how I fell into that bank of snow? Oh, and it had started to snow. Yeah …

Eventually, we saw the lights from the second truck behind our car. They were far back, around where the first truck had gotten stuck. I saw them stop and pause for a long time. I saw them flicker, and I knew the driver was walking in front of them, moving from one side of the truck to the other. I felt this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, because I was pretty sure this second truck was also stuck. I made myself keep this thought to myself, because everyone in the car was feeling guardedly optimistic at the sight of those lights. I didn’t want to ruin that.

The truck lights came a bit closer. Then, they stopped again. And I saw the flicker of someone walking in front of them again, moving from one side of the truck to the other. I had that same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. But eventually, it kept moving forward until it was actually there, right behind our car!

In the end, it turned out the second truck also got stuck. But because it was higher than the first one, the drivers were able to dig it out. For what it’s worth, the first driver never left. He just turned his truck around and parked it on the side of the road, slightly out of our view. The two guys were so kind and friendly. And they were a very welcome sight! They drove their bigger truck back and forth over the snow behind us to pack it down. They ended up digging our car out of all that snow. They hooked chains to our back end, and they basically just winched us out of the snow while Hubby kept the wheel pointing straight so that we didn’t run off the road.

As Hubby was paying the bill, the second driver asked, “What kind of car is this, anyhow?” Hubby replied with the make and model and asked why, and the driver replied that he thought he wanted to buy one. He was very impressed we had managed to make it so far down that road. Hey, if you do something stupid, do it in the most spectacular manner possible. Right? Right!

So. All’s well that ends well, as they say. We managed to get winched out of the snow. The tow guys were kind enough not to laugh at us to our faces. We got turned around and headed toward home. We had left our house around 4:30PM that afternoon, and we finally made it home at 9PM that night. We made eggs, bacon, and pancakes for dinner. And we watched some TV together before heading to bed. I was exhausted from my snowy adventure. I’m still exhausted from it!

And I have resolved that I shall not leave the house again until Spring. Or, until the next time I want to take pretty sunset pictures.

The Longest Month

January is the longest month. Objectively, I know this is not true. It is not any longer than other months. Well, it’s quite a bit longer than February, but then, so are most of the other months in the year. January isn’t even the only month that has 31 days in it. And yet, January seems to drag its way through my mind, as if an entire year is encapsulated in this one month. I think about this every year during January. No, “think” isn’t quite the right word for it. It’s more like I fight against this feeling of funk every January. As December slides to a close, it’s as if my mind takes a deep breath and whispers, “Ah, January. My old nemesis …”

I’m not sure why this is. I have my suspicions and feelings about it — so many suspicions and so many feelings! But I couldn’t tell you the actual, psychological ins and outs of it. Because, of course, I am not a psychologist. I’m just a blogger who is sitting at her desk and tapping on her keyboard in order to send words sailing out into the ether.

January is a month of grays and blues. While I personally love those colors, there is something different about the blues and grays of January. It’s as if someone has, ever so slowly, drained all the color from the world, leaving behind something that feels not quite real or not quite solid. And it won’t feel real or solid again until all the colors come back in Spring. This is my second winter here in the midwest, and I am finding the lack of color to be particularly true here. The richness of the fields and farms around our town seems to be slumbering until warmer weather calls it back into existence. The weather is cold. The skies tend to be that kind of gray that is more like a lack of color, instead of being an actual color of its own. The ponds and creeks are crusted over with ice. The earth is hard and unforgiving.

I think of January as a month to endure. December is festive and fun, although (perhaps) also more than a little stressful with family obligations and all the expectations that we tack onto the holiday season. But December has color and sound and laughter and memories. It’s kind of loud and brassy, in a way. February feels like we are just about to turn the corner into Spring. In February, the whole world seems to hold its breath in preparation for what is to come. But January … January is just “there”. It’s a time to pack away the happiness and festiveness of the winter holidays. It’s too early to watch for those little, tell-tale signs of Spring. In January, we slog forward, although, for me, it often feels as if I make little progress.

Depression tends to come for me in January. It’s not like depression ever leaves me completely. I always struggle with it and with anxiety in some form or another, but it seems easier to keep them at bay during other months of the year. January is a quiet, introspective sort of month. It’s a month for thinking about things that have happened and about things that are to come. It’s a month for planning and, maybe, hoping. But all that thinking and self-evaluating sometimes gives depression a foothold in my life. The good thing is that I can usually reason my way out of it, and my coping mechanisms work well for me. But depression and anxiety feel particularly close in January.

January is that one month out of the year in which my life tends to feel like “too much”. I’m always busy, particularly now that I am back to working. But it seems like January saps my energy and leaves me feeling exhausted and used up. It’s strange to me, because I am not doing any more things in January. I am the same amount of “busy” as in all the other months, but it feels more overwhelming and unending in January.

And yet, I try to remind myself that January has its own beauty. Because it is a quiet and unassuming month, I feel like January gives me a chance to see the small things in life that might otherwise go unnoticed. Spotting a cardinal on my fence, its red feathers bright and almost garish against the white-gray background of a snowy yard, is even more of a treat. A day of sun and pale blue skies emerges as an unexpected blessing and breath of fresh air amid the cloudy gray days. There is a special kind of beauty to be found in the heavy quiet that falls over the world on a snowy night, when fat flakes drift down and the earth speaks in whispers. Frost curls and grows across our window panes, creating delicate and lacy filigree.

I try to keep my spirits up in January. I leave my Christmas decorations out all the way through the month. I make sure to turn on the trees every evening, and I like to spend some time sitting quietly in our darkened living room with a cup of tea to enjoy the lights. I spend time with my daughter re-playing Breath of the Wild and adventuring in beautiful Hyrule. I give myself time to think and dream on story ideas and character outlines. I read fanciful and cute little romances. I watch Pride & Prejudice on repeat. I play with nail polish.

And so, January passes. One day soon, I will look at the calendar and feel surprised to realize it is February. I know I will feel a bit of relief to have survived another “dreary” January. But this year, I hope I can also look back on this, the longest of all months, and see the beautiful memories and moments, too.

Snow-Shocked

birds on a wire ... in snowThere’s snow on the ground
And over my toes.
When I fell down,
It went up my nose.

There’s snow on the roof
And the tops of the trees.
It could be a goof,
But I’m done with this freeze.

There’s snow on the robin
Pecking the ground.
He’s angry and sobbin’,
For Spring can’t be found.

I know it’s out there
With flowers and bees.
And warm, breezy air,
Come on, Springtime … Please!!

 

To Winter

To Winter:

There are many things I love about you. After the broiling heat of summer and the pretend chill of Fall, you blow into my world like a … Well, like a breath of fresh air, if you will excuse the pun.

There is nothing quite as lovely or exciting as the anticipation of the first snowfall. And nothing quite so beautiful as watching the world around me become something strange and new beneath a blanket of pristine, icy white. You bring Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day — worthy holidays, all. You bring the fun of sledding and snowball fights and making snow angels. You make me smile when I hear the laughter and shrieks of joy from all the kiddos playing outside, enjoying your bounty with giddy abandon. You bring the quiet hush of a snowbound night, when there are no cars on the streets and not even the trains are running. The world seems suddenly big and uncertain without these familiar noises, but I find my heart thrilling to the new-found peace of it all. You bring family time and long evenings spent all together, perhaps watching a movie or sitting before a warm fire. Also, nothing grows while you are around, and, as someone who is allergic to pretty much everything, I can appreciate this quite a lot.

All of these things, Winter, are your doing. They are all beautiful and worthy and much beloved.

rose buds covered in our first snow this yearI don’t want you to get the wrong idea, Winter. It’s not so much that what you’re doing is a bad thing. It’s more that … Well, there’s just so MUCH of it. Our first snow was thrilling and exciting. But the second … third … fourth … fifth … etc. snows? Eh, not so much. You have given us so many snow days that I think my daughter will be in school nearly until July. At this point, you are infringing upon Summer’s territory, and that just seems wrong on a very basic level. If we lowly mortals have to learn to share, I think it’s only fair that you seasons do the same. You know what “they” say: Sharing is Caring.

And, I’m sure you are not surprised to hear this Winter, but I’ll say it anyhow: the Robins are angry. They are busy, self-important, angry little birds. And they are out there: an army of Spring’s harbingers, pecking away at your snows as if they could push your icy grip back by sheer force of will. You are treading on dangerous territory here, Winter. If you mess with the Robins too much, they will cut you. Don’t be fooled by their cuteness.

In short, much as I will miss you … much as I will long for you in the depths of Summer’s broiling heat … much as I will think fondly of you in the throes of my Spring allergies … It’s time for you to go, Winter. It’s March now. You’ve had your fun, and it’s time to let someone else have a turn.

Much love,

Me.

Trudging Through the Gray

I feel like I need to bring a duster with me today. Maybe one of those fluffy feather ones that are so big you wonder what bird could have possibly “donated” the building blocks for it. Or just a good, old, trusty Dust Buster. Love those guys. They get into all the corners and manage to give my dogs an excuse for an exhilarating round of excited barking, all at the same time. Gotta love a household appliance that multi-tasks. Anyhow, I can see the dust has piled up in my absence … and the “cobs” have begun to string their webs from the corners once more.

So … Where have I been? And what have I been doing? It has to be something big and wonderful and ginormously be-awesome to keep me away from this place, right? Something just short of miraculous, perhaps?

Oh, how I wish that were true. How I wish I could pop back in and say, “Hey, you guys!! I’ve been writing and writing and writing like a mad woman! And I’ve gotten SO DARN MUCH done on my book! And it’s almost finished!!!” And then I would get up out of my chair and do a little dance in front of my desk. The dogs would join in, even though they would have no idea why we were happy and dancing. They’re dogs; they’re happy all the time. And we would all dance and bark and laugh and be happy until I realized the cat was glaring at me in disapproval, which would immediately remind me to employ proper decorum. “Proper decorum”, in this instance, of course, consists mainly of planting one’s hiney firmly in one’s desk chair. No hopping or whooping or dancing about. It’s … unseemly.

Two Dogs. Both Furry. Both Silly. Both Fun.The truth, as often happens, isn’t nearly so bright. And it’s a lot less fun. As is typically the case when I am absent for an extended period of time, I’ve been struggling with some stuff. Winter has been hard, and my depression has not been kind. I’ve spent a lot of time just sitting around, staring at my computer … staring at the wall above my computer … staring out the window at my snow-covered yard … before sighing and giving in to that little voice that keeps whispering to me that a “Diagnosis Murder” power marathon is a fantastic idea. Just to give you an idea how many times my inner “I can’t do this” voice has won out, I’ve managed to watch all eight seasons of “Diagnosis Murder” in the last month. Yep. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.

I had it all planned out to crawl back over to WordPress and dust off my blog over the weekend. It was time — not that I felt I had anything much to say, and not that I felt any more like being “present” in the world around me. But I got sick this weekend. I have a kidney infection, so I’ve probably been sick for some time without realizing it. These things don’t happen overnight — even though that feels exactly like how it happened. Anyhow, there’s something about feeling too weak and crappy to get out of bed and feeling entirely too nauseous to stay in bed that really takes away all one’s creative impulses. Even looking at text in a book or on the computer screen made me sick to my stomach. It was neither pretty nor fun. There was much whining involved.

dead rose with snow. because i'm feeling fatalistic

This most recent foray into the Depression-verse hasn’t all been bad or a complete waste of time. I’ve figured out some stuff about my book and about my writing and about myself. Not small things, either. Big things that feel important and weighty. I still don’t quite know what to do with these things, but they feel … real, somehow. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel I need to write about these things. Ideally, to blog about them, but, failing that, at least to make journal entries about them. But, somehow, I can’t seem to make this happen. As real and important as these things feel to me, they also feel new and raw — a scab picked away from a healing wound. And I don’t know what to do about that or how to say it or how to make it all matter.

Still, there is hope in learning something new. It lurks at the bottom of the gray — that little, prickly feeling along my spine that tells me these things matter and reminds me I’m alive. There is hope in being able to sit quietly and stare at the wall. Maybe one day, there will be new thoughts and ideas, instead of this blank canvas of nothingness inside my head. There is hope in figuring out who I am, what I want, and where I want to be. There is hope in trudging through the gray.

 

The Ice Cometh …

So, how does that Christmas carol go? Something about, “Gone away is the bluebird … Here to stay is a new bird …”

One of my Well, I can tell you one thing, for sure: If the bluebird had been around yesterday, she would have been coated in ice.

So the snow from my last post faded away into oblivion. Did it, as expected, leave behind mud? Or grungy-gray slush? Oh no! Not this snow. This little snowstorm, apparently, had its “big girl pants” on, because our minuscule bit of snow melted away into ice. Not only that, but it brought along wind and freezing rain in order to put on one glorious show.

faded rose blossom covered in ice. dec 2013Yesterday morning, my hubby told me I should get up early-ish (if left to my own devices, I will choose to sleep in, every time), because there was “some ice out there”. He thought I might enjoy the photo opportunities. I have to admit I was more than a little bit grumbly about having to roust myself out of my warm and snuggly bed at the inhumanely awful time of 8:30 in the AM. (Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic there. This is an early time for me, but I realize it is not for most of the normal people out there in the world.) I thought to myself, “Why the heck am I bothering with this? It’s just a little bit of ice. What’s the big deal?”

icy trees and sidewalk in my neighborhood. dec 2013I was not mentally prepared for what I would see once I stepped outside my house. “Awe” seems so cliche and silly, but it is an apt description. Nearly every surface within view was coated in a thin sheet of ice. The early(ish) morning sunlight, although weak from filtering through heavy cloud cover, hit the high spots and seemed to sparkle and twinkle off the glassy coating. Each tree branch looked as if it had been dipped right into the stuff. They hung low and heavy toward the ground, burdened by the extra weight of their beauty. The last of the fall roses hadn’t escaped. Each one wore a new, shining decoration, as if Mother Nature had decided to ¬†preserve each delicate blossom for us to enjoy through winter months that tend to be filled with brown and gray.

brown leaves in ice. dec 2013There is something eerie and unsettling about an ice-bound landscape. There is no noise. The birds and the squirrels are all hiding away, tucked in safe and warm, so the familiar, lilting songs and the rustle of the leaves are missing. It’s funny how familiar noises seem to make a hole in the world when they are no longer there. I hear the squirrels chasing each other through the leaves pretty much every single day; I get to the point where I almost don’t notice it at all. But then, when it’s not there … Well, the world is no longer complete. There might be a breeze, but the trees don’t bend and sway to its rhythm. They are too heavy and brittle. And so, everything seems still — but not a peaceful kind of stillness. This is more tense, as if the world all around me is waiting for something to happen. As if everything has paused to watch and wait for whatever comes next, and none of us know what that thing might be. It’s only when the breeze kicks up into a genuine wind that the trees move. Then, there is sound: the clicking of ice-bound branches as they strike against each other. It’s a small kind of music.

my mums in ice. dec 2013Today, there was more snow. It settled on the ground in fluffy drifts, softening the glistening, unforgiving brilliance of the ice. As the temperatures rose, it began to melt. Of course, the ice melted, too. Our streets are clear now, and this second round of snow has already turned to slushy mud in my yard and at the corners of the curbs.

All of which, of course, means that I have to return to the real world tomorrow. There will be muddy dog prints in the entry way and muddy boot prints on the carpet. There will be worries over how I will accomplish all the things I must do within the stingy amount of time allotted for them. I will wonder what to make for dinner. I will wish I didn’t have to cook dinner at all. I will go to the grocery store and on a field trip with my daughter. I will have to tackle cleaning out my over-stuffed office, because, apparently, the house-cleaning fairies are on strike this month. I will hate every second of it. I will put gas in my car. Everything will return to the comforting mundanity in which I live on a daily basis — in which we all live on a daily basis.

red berries in ice. dec 2013But, underneath all of that, I will remember that, for one magical moment, I stepped outside my house and walked through an entire world made of glass. When the boring reality of my life eats away at me and I want to scream out of frustration, I can close my eyes and see all of it there, right in my mind. I can remember the clicking of the tree branches and the way all the colors seemed brighter and more real than ever before. And I will know that, if we look hard enough, even “normal” can be something pretty special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then … I Paused

We had our first “snow day” today. I suppose it’s really more of a snow/sleet/freezing rain kind of day, but whatever. Snow fell out of the sky, so, for this winter junkie, it totally counts!

I get stupidly excited about snow. I’m not sure why, but it seems to grab hold of that little kid who lives deep down inside of me somewhere. I usually keep her hidden, but snowy days drag her out into the light, where she promptly starts squealing in excitement and dreaming of making snowmen.

My truck  yard light, covered in the first snow of the winter. Dec. 8, 2013

 

I suppose it’s terribly cliche of me, but I think the thing I like most about the snow is how quiet it is. I love to watch the flakes fall from the sky, drifting and twisting on the slightest breeze. They seem so fragile and delicate, and, yet, they obliterate everything in their path, turning even the most rank and disgusting things into something new and beautiful. A surreal landscape decorated with the winking sparkle of nature’s diamonds.

There is something peaceful about it. So often, life is too much. It’s too busy, and it moves too quickly. It’s full of people who are grumpy and rude, or, even, just plain cruel. It seems we are all crammed up against each other and all fighting, tooth and nail, for the same little tidbits life tosses at us. We all want the same parking space … or the last item on the shelf … or to be first in line … or to get home faster than anyone around us … or to make sure we’re the ones the world notices, that everyone knows we are the ones who count. We scratch and claw and honk and spit at each other, until life comes to resemble one of those ridiculous Black Friday videos that go viral, showing two ridiculous people punching each other over who should get the cheapest crappy TV set.

My neighbor's rose, covered in the first snow of the winter. Dec. 8, 2013

I often feel overwhelmed by life and by this place where I live. I long for a quieter, simpler life — perhaps in a smaller town — and I find myself ending most days feeling a bit shell-shocked and beaten up by those around me. But, as the first snowflakes tumble to earth, I hold my breath in anticipation. It feels like, all around me, the entire world does the same, as if my universe decided, just at that moment, to step off the tilt-a-whirl for a little while. The very air around me feels heavy with expectation and the deliciously painful struggle of waiting for the change that, soon, will come.

I stand at my window and watch as the familiar view in front of my house shifts and changes. The curbing around the flower beds disappears. The metal bird beneath my cherry tree becomes some new and mysterious beast. My beloved roses go into hiding beneath a blanket of fluffy white.

I listen as the sounds change, too. The rumble of the train deepens as it rolls over tracks laden with snow. The sounds of people honking at each other on the highway seem more distant, and I can even begin to believe they no longer exist. The sounds of traffic on the street in front of my house fades away, replaced by the quietly comforting shush of tires against a snowy street.

my azalea bush, covered in the first snow of winter. dec. 8, 2013Tomorrow will probably bring a return to normality. It might herald the pressing rush of trying to accomplish all the things I didn’t manage to do today, as well as all the things I am supposed to do tomorrow. It might bring with it gray skies full of rain, a muddy yard, and the smell of wet dog all over my house. And that’s all right. I suppose tomorrow is going to have to take care of itself.

For today, there is peace. And quiet. And space to breathe. And that’s enough.

 

The Hush

Everyone’s taking a “snow day” today in my little corner of the universe. It’s cold and wet outside. The wind is blowing enough that I can hear a little bit of a howl as it whooshes past the corner of my house. The snow has stacked up nicely in big, gloppy piles in the yard and on our deck. And the flakes keep on coming. Sometimes, a bit less … Sometimes a bit more … But always falling down toward earth with a delicate drift as they ride the wind, first in one direction and, then, in another.

Holly and snow in my neighborhood.I like snow. So much so that, if I was still in elementary school, I might even go so far as to say I “like like” it. Anyone who’s ever been an elementary-aged school kid knows that’s pretty serious business. Every year, I look forward to each and every chance of snow, holding my breath and hoping with every forecast. And, when snow finally comes, I enjoy every moment of it. I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, and we hardly ever had snow. All the way into adulthood — until I moved to Virginia — I had seen snow, maybe, three times. As a result, I’ve never lost that little-kid feeling of awe over the whole thing. It’s still magical to me, and it takes me back, every single time, to the little kid who lives somewhere deep inside of me and has never managed to grow up. I might feel differently if we had to deal with mountains and mountains of snow for months at a time. But we don’t, so I feel I can give into my giddily childish joy with a clear conscience.

Birds on a wire during snow. Vienna, VAThere’s something calming and peaceful about being inside on a snowy day. I love to stand by the window, feeling cozy and warm, and watch the snow fall. It’s so quiet, but not the type of quiet caused by the absence of sound. It’s more that the whole world — all the noise and bustle we’re used to seeing on a daily basis — has been shushed for the time being. Occasionally, I will hear the swish-swish of tires against the wet street, but, mostly, there’s a sense that the whole world has, like me, hunkered down to wait for “real life” to resume. It’s liberating. To stand there — with nowhere particular to go, knowing that all plans have been cancelled for the time being, realizing that nothing “has” to get done right now — is sweet and beautiful. This must be freedom, in its purest sense.

Geese in the snow. Vienna, VA.I love how snow, for all its beauty and delicate silence, is also relentless. It is determined. It covers everything in its wake, transforming the ordinary into something more. Trees and rocks and cars become fantastical shapes that ignite the imagination: Is there a unicorn over there, prancing across the snowy driveway? Oh no … That’s silly. Perhaps it’s a dragon, instead. Even the ugly parts of my back yard, muddied since the beginning of winter, disappear beneath this magical, white blanket. For a short time, everything is beautiful and new — a pleasure to gaze upon, instead of a reminder of tasks left undone.

Farm in Snow. Warrenton, VAOnce upon a time, when I was a little girl, someone told me raindrops were the angels’ tears. I never really thought about it. I was a kid, after all. And it made sense, especially at funerals, where everyone around me was sad. This morning, though, I thought about that for the first time in many years. And I wondered: If raindrops are tears, what are snowflakes? Maybe, they are more like angel-kisses — little bits of delicately beautiful love blown down from Heaven to remind us that the ordinary is special, too. There is beauty and wonder all around us, if we just take a moment to stop and see it. And, sometimes, it’s okay to step back and take a breather: one, glorious snow day on which you have nowhere you need to be and nothing, in particular, to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna Virginia

I find myself with the urge to post … something … on my blog. A dangerous urge that could lead to run-on sentences, mind-bendingly bizarre prose, or any one of a number of writerly sins. Because, although I want to share “something”, I find myself at the end of two days of little-to-no sleep. My brain is tired. I do have a gardening-type post in my back pocket, but I find myself incapable of editing at the moment.

And so, I bring you … pictures!

We had a very mild winter last year, and these were taken on a winter day at one of my favorite local botanical gardens. I manage to find something beautiful, something fascinating, and something amazingly fantastic each time I visit this place. Isn’t nature grand?

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Totem

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Beehive Sculpture

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens red berries

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens reflection

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens flowering plant

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Goose

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Hydrangea

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Goose

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Goose

 

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens floating leaf