the long month of february

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Contrary to the simplistic assertions of the calendar, February is, in fact, the longest month of the year. Ask any Michigander.

The cold, the snow, and the dearth of sunshine conspire to thwart our typical notion of time. Where once life carried on with abandon, now the terrain is silent, stark, and foreboding. The snow is piled up into formidable mountains under heavy, grey skies. The short days of winter are long and wearying.

Rarely does the sun emerge from behind those walls of gray clouds to beckon us to venture forth. It’s cold. Really cold. All the time.

Precious few dare a walk or run. It’s a lonely endeavor. Still, for some of us, there’s an instinct that compels us get out, to move one’s limbs, to feel the whole arc of our selves.

Sidewalks are generally a thing of the past, of course. Where folks made the effort and actually did clear their sidewalks, those turn out to be the most treacherous stretches for walking anyway – they have turned into unmaintainable ice sheets.

As a result, one walks or runs in the road, and at their peril. The roads themselves leave little space for a pedestrian. The snow and the ice encroach on the traveled portion of the pavement, forcing one to be wary and nimble, always prepared to negotiate oncoming traffic. It’s a sketchy endeavor.

It’s actually not strange to be forced to stop now and then just to figure out how to get from one point to another, like across a street. There may be such an amalgamation of dicey ice and snow mountains and traffic that it demands to be puzzled out in advance. Sometimes, the best course of action is actually to turn around and go back.

Nevertheless, those of us committed to walking or running persist. It remains, always, uplifting to get out into the air, if frigid. To see the trees, to hear the birds and be amazed by them. To spy the squirrels, still about their business somehow. To observe the dark river push its way through the stark landscape, sometimes carrying icy chunks. To feel the freedom of movement in space. To simply allow one’s mind to relax and expand beyond the confines of indoors.

I admit to feeling restricted to walking. The roadways are just too unpredictable and hazardous for me to feel safe running. And I am anxious to run. I need to run. I have considered an indoor track, but I yearn for the outdoor one. It’s how I feel whole.

Regardless of my petty needs, the reality is that February just carries on. And on, and on, and on.

I know, however, how these long, bleak days finally transform, making the wait somehow worth it. The little clues begin to show themselves before spring arrives and revives all of the life of this strange, harsh, sleeping world. Then, the long month of February becomes a fleeting illusion, a dream half-forgotten on waking.

It won’t be long. The calendar is proof of that.

embracing the polar vortex

veru1_31_19The snow flies around me, tracing wild paths through the air. The wind sweeps it over and down the roof of a house, and then, up, up, and it suddenly swirls into a small tornado – fast and fantastic.

I am in the middle of a frigid ballet, dancers on every side, and everything white.

The white and the wind become all one thing, and I am not quite sure of my path. My booted feet feel for the track of a car in the road. The streets are empty now.

I look ahead but can only see white. The wind stings my face with cold. Little needle-like flakes of snow make a constant, biting attack.

I tug my hat down low over my eyes, and pull my scarf up. I shove my twice-gloved hands into my pockets, curled and flexing against the cold.

I am exhilarated out in this fresh, new world.

I feel the extremeness of the moment, and notice how the various parts of me react: my hands, my feet, my face, my legs. I feel my shoulders hunched and taut against the wind, or tentatively relaxing as I turn away from it. I feel my breath captured and stolen by a rush of wind, leaving crystals on my chin.

I meet this new small planet with tension and abandon. A fierce joy rises up in me to be out in this uncontrollable wildness, to be humbled by the elements and awed by the eerie beauty.

There is no fighting it, despite the plow trucks periodically careening, seemingly giddy and meaningless, through this transformed land.

There is no fighting it. Can we take this cold, white moment to heart and resolve not to fight with nature, not to destroy nature, but to respect and work – in love and wonder – with nature?

This fearsome frozen minute reminds us to to live in harmony with our earth, not just because nature will win in the end, but because it is a needed part of us – we are intertwined, we are whole together.

snow magic

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I get up in the dark, head down the hall, get the coffee going – no lights. The beloved cat winds across my ankles, purring loudly. Everything is dark, quiet. We head back to sit in bed, sip coffee, think, dream.

I snuggle in the covers. The cat nestles against me.

Everything is warm. Quiet. Soft.

Something’s different. I feel it.

It’s the hush.

I can feel the cocoon about my space, the soft muffle surrounding me.

I sip my coffee, savoring this hush, wondering.

My eyes take in the darkness all around me. Nothing here has changed. But, this hush. 

I slowly grow more and more conscious. 

Then, suddenly knowing, I get up and walk to the window. Pull the blind aside and look out.

Snow.

veru11_10_18bLots and lots of fluffy, still falling snow. The tree branches are laden with it. The glow of the porch light shows the air filled, filled with flakes.

It is a magical scene. Like a fairy tale. 

I turn around and gently pluck the cat off the bed because I know, just know, he wants to see this.

Heads together, we peer out the window, eyes wide with curiosity.

We are both quiet, just watching the falling snow, feeling safe and happy in the hush.