Spring will come, the basketball said. But for now, it added, winter's grip is still on.
Winter has a lot going for it: the flush of excitement at the first snowfall, the crystalline shapes of individual snowflakes on your sleeve, the silent warmth of an enclosing gray-white blanket. Each turn of the seasons brings newness and anticipation.
But winter's run can drag me down with its accumulation of little things: The trapped indoor air dotted with dust. The static shocks. Repeated snowfalls, repeated shovelings, higher mounds. The tracked-in grit radiating into the house. The chill. The long darkness.
Sometimes when it's little things getting you down, it's little things that can bring you back.
It was a Saturday; I felt rested. Sun and bright skies had returned. The kids were entertaining themselves and allowed us to get some housework done.
In the afternoon I took the cars through the car wash and swept out the garage. The sun had burned the ice off the driveway.
Something about a brief interlude with a neat house, clean cars, and a clear drive just makes the world a more benevolent place.
And I got out for a long walk. Melville's Ishmael would go to sea to dispatch the "damp, drizzly November" in his soul. I go for a walk. Often in winter the best place to be is outdoors.
The sharp air still bit at my cheeks, but I was wrapped well. The exercise and the cold, fresh air gave a warm sense of living on equal terms with nature and holding one's own.
I walked along, through the standard subdivision scenery: houses looking like cousins or siblings of each other, vehicles salty or sparkling in the driveways, garbage cans and recycling bins atop roadside snow mounds, icicles frozen in cascade over gutters and eaves.
At one house, in the cleared driveway, someone had evidently been taking advantage of the sunshine to shoot baskets. There, beyond the backboard on the too-gently sloped roof, sat the orange ball in a depression of snow.
I imagined a boy, probably underdressed, racing outside at the sight of clear skies and a sun-cleared court. He took some warm-up shots, then spent most of his time hitting championship buzzer-beaters with the scream of an announcer and the roar of a crowd in his head.
But one shot went wrong; the ball didn't come down. The boy probably trotted inside, satisfied, ready for something new.
More winter will surely come.
The boy may scratch the ball down with a broom, or he may wait for warmth and gravity to do the trick. But on this day, he left behind for the rest of us to share, half buried in a white expanse of roof, a window to spring.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society