“Are the days of winter sunshine just as sad for you, too? When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.”
— Gustave Flaubert
The wintery months of cold and gray require a strong constitution, along with a willingness to persevere no matter how difficult it is to roll out of a warm bed every morning.
I admire the people who can genuinely say they love this cold season. I think of the winters of youth: ice skating just as soon as the pond was frozen solid enough to venture on to it, staying busy until then with sled riding, making snow men and snow angels.
The snow fort
One year, my sister decided we were going to build a snow fort. She talked endlessly about it, as we waited for the snow to come. She made it sound fancy and inviting.
The more she talked, the more I pictured a cozy chalet when it was all done. “But, won’t it be too cold to enjoy?” I remember asking. “No, everything I have read about it says that it will be much warmer inside than you think,” she replied. She described the igloo that she had read about in school, and her excitement was contagious. We waited and we watched, hoping for a big snow.
That big snow finally came. When school was called off, we still had to milk the cows and do some extra chores since we didn’t have to rush to meet the bus. By that time, we had a good covering of snow, and it was time to start building our snow castle.
We seemed doomed from the start. The snow was a powdery fluff, not at all right for packing in to blocks. My sister refused to give up. “Go get some really cold water,” she instructed me. I followed her directions, letting the water run awhile so we got the super coldest well water in the bucket. I hauled it to the construction site, wondering what my sister could possibly be thinking. Water and snow on a freezing day just seemed likely to make ice, or nothing at all.
But, what did I know?
My industrious sister had cleared a square, explaining the snowy spot would be the main floor of our living room. All I needed to do was help her make blocks.
We tried every possible idea that popped in our heads. All we accomplished was that we both ended up wet and frozen. I threw in the towel when I realized we had only managed to make one single block, and even it didn’t look too promising to be part of the initial foundation.
We went in the house and put our soaking wet gloves on the warm-air register, turned upside down on old empty Pepsi bottles, hoping they would be dry by the time we needed to go back out to do our evening chores.
It was a snowy winter, and we spent many hours sled riding, the old hill getting more and more perfect for speed. The skates were dug out of the stairway cubbyhole, with additional socks put on if the size available was a bit too big. Too small, and you just learned to grin and bear it, feet frozen by the time a perfect figure 8 had been accomplished.
I think about those days as I get up and head to work in the darkness of early morning, returning home in the dark, too. The endless winter days filled with an icy rain and a gray hue makes me long for those olden days of hopeful possibility, every day an optimist’s adventure.