Down by the river there are crowns of snow resting on top of the marsh reed plumes. The faded brown stalks have the look of an abandoned cotton field. Beyond them, the river runs.
Along the water in our backyard, the feral cats make sudden appearances. They dart and weave through the tall grass and hunker down in the hidden pockets like escaped felons. They shoot out squinty, abashed stares at anyone who’d think of getting familiar.
Over the water, the seagulls have a better sense of fun. They arc and wheel through the sky. They depart from the downtown bridge and sing through their just-for-the-hell-of-it roundelays before plunking down in the middle of the water. It all seems importantly frivolous.
In these months, the windows in our homes and offices rarely get opened. The situation bears watching, lest the air turns into something hot and old. The wisdom of monitoring the air really hits when you step outside and the fierce cold is as sudden as an exposed knife. Instantly the winter wind braces the sleepy mind with a whipping friskiness.
Start walking, keep walking. Get that sharp breeze in the nose. If you were drowsy a few minutes ago whilst sitting safe inside, then a few blocks’ worth of movement outside makes you feel strikingly more alert. No longer the befuddled sleepyhead utterly merged with the chair! Now you march across the bold winter landscape with the sure foot of the snow leopard striding over Annapurna.
That is winter for you. The early dimming of daylight can be so sudden and dismaying. Then hilarious friends in sleazy sunbelt towns call to regale you needlessly with stories about playing golf just that very morning. Maybe they’d just like to go soak their heads in cocoa butter?
What would they know, after all, of our season’s patented transfiguration? What would they know of the pleasure of witnessing a sudden blast of sunlight on a snowy field and sensing the rushing flood of new clarity? In another time, I spent more than a few years of my life living on the edge of the desert. I know it can be beautiful out there. But there is a lot to be said for our kind of winters, when the plant kingdom goes to sleep in fields of ice; and with fresh resolve and new understandings we say to ourselves, “Now it all begins again.”
That’s the gift of winter wind and light.
When ambitious fitness ideas are presented at this time of year, as we are doing in this issue, starting on page 41, it’s because this is the blessed season of ferment followed by action. The past can’t be brought back, and no wintry remembrance is going to haul it back either. But the new ideas brought about by the cold season, these can also fly high, just like those larky seagulls over the river, rising from the depths of winter to some bright height.