This is my first winter in Iowa. My first winter with snow. My first winter in the Midwest.
Yeah, I have the blahs. The grumpiness, the lethargy, at times even the despair. I once heard vertigo described as “the insuperable longing to fall,” and there’s something about this cold, bare winter that pushes me down. Down into the deep mud of the primordial Iowa inland sea.
Where are the flowers? Sleeping, someone said, but I have yet to see their return and doubt it, as I doubted that all the leaves would return to the trees last spring. Show me. I haven’t seen it yet. Where are the birds? Just the little brown ones come to my feeders, only occasionally a bright red cardinal. The large nests of bundled sticks way up in the trees are not for crows (or storks) as I once thought, but for the towns’s healthy population of feisty squirrels.
As in Game of Thrones, I heard earlier this year: “You’re in for a REAL WINTER,” said with a smile and barely contained schadenfreude. Subtext – candy-ass California girl is going to suffer with our big, bad Iowa winter.
But I am not a soft Cali girl, not the Beach Boys variety at all. I lived up a dirt road, foraged for wood for my stove, drove over fallen trees, harvested my friend’s crops, and chopped off rattlesnakes’ heads with my shovel. I watched fires burn right up to my house in summer, and drank vodka with my Swedish neighbors in winter, hiking home in the rain and mud.
I waited for the landscape of the town to change, and it did! Last night my winter blahs became winter wonder. Freshly fallen snow sparkles with some kind of celestial twinkly light. Who knew? That evening my husband and I ventured forth, the hard whiteness crunching under our feet, then drove to the superb local Sushi restaurant. There, as we watched the snow continue to fall, we feasted on sweet rice balls, and tuna and crab rolls with extra wasabi. All washed down with cups of warm sake. (So much for Dry January.)
Fairfield’s trees reach up to the sky, like bony hands, or branching arteries. At night the spinning stars and planets shine through. If you’re serious and bundle up, you can gaze at them outside, for a few minutes anyway. Green comet, anyone? Last night, someone painted branches of the lovely old oaks, maples and cottonwoods with ribbons of white, highlighting their gracious arcs and curves. Rooftops recall fairy tales, with sheets of white icing coming down to their eaves.
Snow here makes the whole town prettier, like an old-time Christmas postcard. It justifies my sitting at my desk, writing and nibbling on cookies. Or reading Melville’s Moby Dick beside the fireplace. Shoveling just a bit of ice off the sidewalk this morning was refreshing. The quiet of snowfall is poetic, tranquil.
By focusing consistently on what we are grateful for we can make so many of life’s disappointments fade away. It’s a practice for me, and one which the Stoics would approve…