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Winter Does Its Work

Blame thirty years of Florida living, the media, Norman Rockwell, or Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, but to me the idea of winter always carried a certain air of romance. Back home I loved the days of weather dipping into the 50s and chillier (Northerners, feel free to laugh at me here). Any excuse to pull out the cozy sweaters and settle in with hot tea and a book was fine by me. I guess I didn’t have much experience with cold. To paraphrase a famous snowman, it was more that I liked to imagine what real winter was like when it comes.

When I moved to New England last summer, I quickly realized my homeland was a fancy handwritten invitation to jokes and pity and some variation of “Haha, poor thing, wait until winter gets here.” Which is all in friendly fun, but sometimes it sounded more like, “You, naive one, are gonna die.”

I’d laugh it off, because I thought I knew full well what I was getting myself into.

Y’all don’t understand . . . I’m from Florida. It’s no magical paradise. We have brutal summers with almost daily thunderstorms. I’ve seen sunny skies go dark and split wide open into torrential downpours. I’ve hunkered down in Walmart’s furniture department while hail and blinding rain pummeled the cars outside and watched mighty oaks cave and crush my neighbor’s fence. Also, we have alligators. I’m not afraid.

January came and went with little dustings of snow. Chris would say now and then, “We need at least one good blizzard!” I agreed. It would be a lame first winter otherwise.

Well . . .

I am wrapped in a blanket and listening to the leftover winds from Blizzard Number Four. This morning it looked like Neptune dumped an ocean of snow in our yard overnight. Our neighbors are outside fighting back with shovels and other contraptions to clear the snow from our streets and sidewalks once again. The remains of four storms keep piling higher in every available corner, like mini-mountains, like monuments.

Snow is strange. From the safety of home, it looks like little flecks of white — like innocent soapsuds — peacefully swirling through the air. The sky is hard, gray, heavy and cold. Something about days like these drains the color from the world, so much that one recently dreary Monday all I could think of was how much I missed the color green.

But sometimes, the sunny days come. Escape the city, and you’ll find pristine fields of sparkling white, frosted trees stretching up to warm themselves, sharp icicles that glitter and drip, and clear blue skies that fade into dark, starry nights. Winter’s beauty is harsh, striking. And in that slight thaw, the puddles of snow-slush, and the one stripe of sunlight that sneaks across the kitchen rug, there is a hint of future spring.

I imagine back home the azaleas are blooming. Soon the scent of orange blossoms will fill the air.

It makes me hopeful and a little homesick.

Maybe this is how winter does its work — by covering everything, erasing the landscape, freezing out what’s dying on the surface so the deep roots untouched by frost will flourish again. We often associate winter with death. Maybe it’s a cleansing too, preparing our hearts for the final thaw.

Last week I heard someone say that when this spring comes, it’ll be a lush one, thick and green, watered by the melted snow. I hope so. I am ready.

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