WINTER gives proportion. There's nothing like a northeast gale slamming snow across the fields and forming crust on the window to remind me that here, even after all these years of progress, is an element of nature that hasn't yet been conquered.
Winter reminds me that there are dark and stormy sides of people which not only haven't been conquered, but are yet to be explored. Since I have that human spirit common to us all, there are parts of me, as well as others, I'd like to master. Now, I must be content to endure. Yet, I choose to push on in the northeast gale rather than sit before the fire. I choose to try each day to remove some of the darkness, the yet unconquerable, from my understanding of others and myself.
Winter reminds me of the challenges of learning, of wanting to learn and know, but yet being content to push on, when I know I cannot. Because I know winter will come, I gather in my "nuts and nutty thoughts," as Thoreau said, and look them over when I return to the fire after a winter walk. It takes a cold back to appreciate a warm front.
Winter isn't a time of death as some think when they look to sun-filled travel folders to escape the cold. Winter can be a time for reflection, a time to muster the courage and determination to meet spring head-on, in season and in life, and revel in its glory.
Winter in the woods is hush and beauty, where snow muffles sounds like a feather bed. Instead of death and loneliness, I find the foot-printed snow of others who have already come: on skis, on lugged boots, on bear-pawed snow shoes, on padded feet and claws. I won't know who they were, but with them, I've shared winter, and life, and we are both better for it.
Winter closes doors, but opens others. I walk across the ice to the island I saw but couldn't reach last summer. Coves in the marshlands spread before me as I shove aside brittle cattail stalks to reach the snug house of the muskrat. I see his frost breathing marks on top and wish I might share a minute with him. The bird house beside him is full of feathers, shredded leaves, and a mound of twigs.
Winter is a time for taking stock, for stopping the massive growing to look at details. Nature stops; so must I, and look critically at the parts of me that activity makes me miss. When I meet a brutal wind full face and manage to go my way, I feel a power I never knew I had.
Winter points sharply to elements of strength where I could meet greater trials than I have known. Perhaps my store of nuts is ample after all.
Without winter, I might never be sure.