Hello year 2008.
I am changing. Really! It used to be that I hated Wisconsin and hated the winter, and maybe it’s way too early in the season to make a statement like the one I’m about to, but I think it’s maybe becoming the opposite. Here is the thing: for a month now it’s been freezing cold and wet and slippery and gray and dark and all those depressing adjectives, but it’s done very little to make me depressed, and in fact it has me a little bit excited about the coming three or four months of this weather. Honestly, what is becoming of me?
In the spring of 2006 I moved back to Wisconsin after living for nine months (including one winter) in California. I thought, “Surely when this next winter hits I will experience heightened depression, having tasted the alternative. Surely I will regret my choice to return and will take the first presented opportunity to get the heck back out of Wisconsin.” I was bracing myself for a reaction like that. And granted, last year’s winter didn’t start until after the New Year (we’ll have an entire extra month this year!) but those dreaded feelings of gloom never came. Why not?
Of course there were distractions to help keep my mind off of the weather. I was starting my new temp job at the bank, I was applying for grad school, I was preparing for my Northern Waters art show, I was falling in love, those kinds of things. I’m positive there were days when I muttered about the cold and vowed to return to a warmer climate, but I don’t think it was ever very urgent, or very sincere. Through all of last winter you could say I tolerated the season but I don’t think you could say I appreciated it yet. You certainly couldn’t say that I liked it.
No, it seems those emotions would come this year. Earlier I wrote a post saying I found winter to be hilarious, but also noble and endearing. It brought us together as a Northern people. We are stronger for facing these winters. We are braver, kinder, and generally more well-balanced. Some would say we are crazy, for remaining in a climate so unkind to the human race with our naked skin and reckless driving, but the people who say that are neglecting to notice some of the things which I have been noticing–for the first time even –this winter.
If we take the unpleasant decrease in temperature and the frustrating conditions of the roads and put that aside for a moment, what you have left is one of the most fascinating aesthetics of all the seasons. The lush color of spring, summer and fall are obvious choices, and I will always love those seasons more than winter, I think. But winter–look at it! Who doesn’t enjoy waking up and finding that the world outside has been covered with a fresh blanket of pure white snow, and everything–the power lines and the tree limbs and the housetops and neighbors’ cars–is all part of the scenery? Of course we like that, it’s a post card, it’s a snow globe. And when the sun shines down on this landscape it is dazzling. But that’s not the winter I’m talking about. I’m talking about the winter that is gray and sloppy, melting and freezing and melting again. The streets are dirty and the sun hasn’t been present for days, and the trees are bare and twisted and ugly. There is no Christmas cheer and no one is walking around with a skip in their step. We are all depressed.
Except we shouldn’t be! Because there is something gorgeous about this miserable landscape. The world has been, temporarily, drained of color and we exist in the gray scale. Aesthetically it is remarkable–it is challenging and the values are subtle. We can’t rely on color to tell us anything. The world is a line drawing. Metaphorically it is just as challenging. We are grimy humans and we can, for a time, dwell in a world more suited to our dismal thoughts and continual failures. Life can be so ugly–here it is! We have this season to truly wallow, if we want to, or if we’re not the wallowing type we can be that beacon of hope, that smile which signals that spring will surely come. We will thaw and the ice around our hearts will melt. I’ve never been so sure of spring as I have been this winter. “I don’t mind the weather, I’ve got scarves and caps and sweaters.”
People living in warmer climates have troubles too. If you move there, you will not leave them behind. I’m glad that I learned this.
Greener Grass (From the August EP, August 2006)