Reflections on winter

By Posted on Dec 16 2013 | By

 Experiencing the shiver of delight, not chill 

I’m a man for all seasons. No, not a Thomas More challenging King Henry VIII and his propensity for divorce in the classic 1966 movie. I doubt I have the moral strength to lose my head for my principles.

But rather, I am a man for all of nature’s seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. This love dates to my early days of scouting when I cared less about earning merit badges but simply wanted to go camping. Anytime.

My affection for the out-of-doors is reinforced when winter settles on our bucolic Piedmont countryside. Winters here are ephemeral. Out of an entire season, we might only have a few weeks of really cold weather before March blows the frosty days away in a whirlwind.

And lest I get side tracked, the subject of global warming is being left on the shelf for now. The last word I read is that global temperatures have not changed in the last fifteen years, regardless of rising greenhouse gases.

IMG_2620In Virginia, the average winter temperature is 39 degrees. Sounds chilly but that’s the average. There are plenty of mid-40 degree days or higher. But this winter is off to a grand start from my perspective. As I type, it’s 36 degrees outside at two o’clock in the afternoon with a light blanket of snow draping the forest surrounding our home.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac makes this 2014 prediction for our region:  Winter will be colder and drier than normal, with the coldest periods in early and late December, early January, and early February. Snowfall will be near normal in the north and above normal in the south, with the snowiest periods in early November and in mid- and late February. 

Ahhh…a delightful prognostication; let’s hope it’s accurate. A cold winter warms the heart and turns one inward to home and hearth. During the rest of the year, my restless nature has me pursuing all manner of activity. Once the sun is up in the summer, I’m off to engage in yard work, golf, trail maintenance in the Shenandoah National Park, hiking, volunteer work and more. Balmy weather compels one to activity. Yes, retirement gifts me much free time.

During a cold winter, I venture outside less but when I do, it’s into a more peaceful world. Daily walks on my community trails are solitary excursions. No one is about; the crunch of snow on the trails is the only sound I hear. Rambling through a snow covered forest is an invitation to open a conversation with myself on all manner of weighty issues—or not. I return home a calmer man than when I left.

When the temperatures begin to drop in November, it’s time to pull the comforters out of storage and prepare the beds for long winter sleeps in snugly comfort. Firing up my beloved wood burning stove is a hallmark of winter’s descent.

Bringing fire into a home has its environmental critics and is attendant with a wee bit of a safety issue. But to sit in my living room in the evening, transfixed on a soft burning fire, creates a sense of security and peace.

IMG_7522No heat pump, propane tank or electric heating can match the deep warmth—both physical and emotional—conveyed by a wood burning stove. It is a presence almost as real as a person; a living entity shielding one from the harsh reality of cold air, while providing warming comfort to those gazing into its magical flames.

A dram of single malt scotch enjoyed in the company of both a softly crackling fire and my bride of forty-eight years, is like roaming the Elysian Fields here on Earth.

As a writer, dropping temperatures stirs creative urges. Since there is less life outside, the thought process turns inward and appears upon paper in a gentle, unrushed march of words on subjects untouched in a warmer clime.

Among the highlights of an award-winning winter is a heavy snowfall. Time seemingly stops as the snow piles up, traffic remains captive in blocked driveways and scenes evocative of a century ago appear as an artist’s rendering. It is the ultimate solitary confinement in the best sense of that normally dreaded term.

Another delight is my escape to the mountains for both downhill and cross-country skiing. Downhill is often a family adventure while cross-country finds me heading into West Virginia with the guys to work hard, gliding over forest trails and relaxing in the evenings with libations and stogies.WhiteGrass (2)

The end of the day assessments includes how skillfully we managed the icy descents on free-heel skis. Truth is neither sought nor expected in these performance reviews.

I look forward to this winter, hopeful its auspicious start is not melted in a January thaw.

Quotation anthologist, Terri Guillements, frames the quiet season best by saying, “The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.”

So while others wait the eventual return of warm breezes, I will revel in the imagination of the chill.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES