The children are sleeping and the cows and chickens are sleeping, and the grass itself is sleeping. The machines are off and the neighbor’s lights, a half mile away, are out, and the moon is hanging like a powdered face in a darkened room, and the snow is shining under stars the way we are shining here in our cold skins under warm quilts.
There is no season, no grass gone brown, no cold, and no one to say we are anything but beautiful, swimming together across the wide channel of night. ~David Romtvedt from “Still” in Some Church
In the evening we come down to the shore to drink our fill, and sleep, while it flows through the regions of the dark. It does not hold us, except we keep returning to its rich waters thirsty. We enter, willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.
I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark, containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning. I give you the life I have let live for the love of you: a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road, the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life that we have planted in the ground, as I have planted mine in you. ~Wendell Berry from “The Country of Marriage”
Again we find ourselves alone together ~ shining in a warmth we find in each other planted so deeply we cannot always know where one ends and another begins, a commonwealth of shared everything~ the soft beauty of touch and tears: no matter what comes next. Mine is yours.
We are partly tuber, partly bear. Inside our warmth we fold ourselves in the dark and its cold – around us, outside us, safely away from us; we tuck ourselves up in the long sleep and comfort of cold’s opposite, warming ourselves by thought of the cold, lighting ourselves by darkness’s idea. ~Donald Hall from “Seasons at Eagle Pond”
Being too warm the old lady said to me is better than being too cold I think now in between is the best because you never give it a thought but it goes by too fast I remember the winter how cold it got I could never get warm wherever I was but I don’t remember the summer heat like that only the long days the breathing of the trees the evenings with the hens still talking in the lane and the light getting longer in the valley the sound of a bell from down there somewhere I can sit here now still listening to it ~W.S. Merwin “Remembering Summer”
I confess loving the dark and cold as much as light and warmth. Drawn without alarm clock away from my pillow, I awake early covered in inky blackness of these unlit January mornings.
An uncharted day before sunrise, so raw with ripening, belongs to no one else until the light comes to force me forth. Only from darkness can I sprout so boldly.
The soul must long for God in order to be set aflame by God’s love. But if the soul cannot yet feel this longing, then it must long for the longing. To long for the longing is also from God. ~Meister EckhartfromFreedom from Sinful Thoughts
Every day I tend to get distracted from the reason I’m here; I become too absorbed by the troubles of the moment, or anticipating the troubles of tomorrow.
It ends up all about the feelings which can overwhelm all else – am I comfortable? restless? discouraged? peevish? worried? empty?
When my soul grows cold, I need igniting. I long for the spark of God to set me aflame again at the risk of getting singed. We’re all kindling ready to be lit.
To long for longing: I will pray for this at the beginning and ending of every day.
Snow is falling today and more wind is forecast tomorrow.
It is a cold wind, whether coming from the north, chilling our bones as various weather fronts meet and clash overhead and we feel dumped on.
Another cold wind of reality is blowing through America right now as well, and not just on our farm.
There is considerable turmoil as Americans struggle with the increased need to “pay as you go” rather than “borrow for what you desire”. The debt load for young adults is climbing, especially student loans and mortgages. Fewer older people have any significant savings for retirement.
Our parents were Great-Depression era children, so my husband and I heard plenty of stories convincing us never to reach beyond our means. My grandmother moved her three young children 20 miles away from home in order to cook morning, noon and night in a large boarding house, grateful for the work that allowed her to feed her family. It also meant separation from their jobless, depressed and often intoxicated father for weeks at a time. She told stories of making sandwiches to feed hobos who knocked on the kitchen door, hoping for a hand out, and after sitting briefly on the back steps eating what she could offer from left over scraps, they would be on their way again, walking on down the muddy road, hoping somewhere farther along there may be another handout or perhaps a day’s work. Even in her time of trouble, my grandmother could find blessing in the fact she and her children had a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in (all in one room) and food to fill their stomachs. There were always people worse off and she wasn’t one of them.
My grandmother never lived comfortably, by her own choice, after that experience. She could never trust that tomorrow things would be as plentiful as today, so she rarely rested, never borrowed, always saved even the tiniest scrap of food, of cloth, of wood, as it could always prove useful someday. My father learned from those uncertain days of his childhood and never borrowed to buy a car or a piece of furniture or an appliance. It had to be cash, or it was simply not his to purchase, so he never coveted what he did not have money to buy outright.
So we, the next generation, were raised that way. Even so, borrowing began with loans for college but still working three jobs while maintaining good grades. But then there was borrowing for that first care and to buy a house.
But with grandma’s and dad’s stories fresh in our minds, we knew we couldn’t start that slippery slope of borrowing to take vacations or buy the latest and greatest stuff or build the bigger house. So we didn’t.
We have lived simply, driving our vehicles past 200,000 miles, continuing to harvest and preserve from the garden, using our appliances past the 25 year mark. And we’ve been content and happy.
Happiness isn’t stuff. It isn’t big houses. It isn’t brand new cars or the latest gadgets.
It’s being under the same roof as a family, striving together and loving each other. It is taking care of friends when they need help. It is reaching out to the stranger in our midst who has less than we have.
The wind is pointing us back to the values we had long forgotten as we got much too comfortable. It takes a storm to find that true contentment can rest only within our hearts.
The cold has the philosophical value of reminding men that the universe does not love us…cold is our ancient companion. To return back indoors after exposure to the bitter, inimical, implacable cold is to experience gratitude for the shelters of civilization, for the islands of warmth that life creates. ~John Updike from an essay on the cold of winter in Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
We’re in the midst of a string of sub-freezing temperature nights and days with crystal clear skies while a nor’easter sends the windchill plummeting.
Even though it is often called the “Arctic Express” it is not nearly the cold of the midwest plains or the Alaskan frontier. This is civilized, “kill the bugs and the allergens” cold that helps balance out the ecosystem as well as our internal thermostats. It is just not seemly to live at 70 degrees year round, toasted by the stove in the winter, soothed by conditioned air in the summer.
The cold that descends from the Arctic can blast through the strongest Carhartt clothing, sneak through drafty doors and windows, pull down power lines and freeze pipes not left dripping. It leaves no one untouched and unbitten with universal freezer burn.
A bitter cold snap ensures even independent fair-weather individualists must become companionable when the going gets rugged, mandating shelter with others for survival. It can even mean forced companionship with those we ordinarily avoid, with whom we have little in common, with whom we disagree and even quarrel, with whom sharing a hug or snuggling for warmth would be unimaginable.
Our nation is in such a cold snap today, terribly and bitterly divided. If we all together don’t come in out of the deep freeze, we each will perish alone.
It is time to be thankful we have each other, such as we are. At least we generate heat, even if we can’t seem to lighten up.
By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast — a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines —
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches —
They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind —
Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined — It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of entrance — Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted they grip down and begin to awaken ~William Carlos Williams “Spring and All”
January wraps up with much of the country in deep freeze, covered in snow and ice and bitter wind chill.
Yet outside begins to awaken– tender buds swelling, bulbs breaking through soil, in reentry to the world from the dark and cold.
Like a mother who holds the mystery of her quickening belly, so hopeful and marveling, she knows soon and very soon there will be spring.