Winter Does Its Work

By

Blame thirty years of Florida living, the media, Norman Rockwell, or Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, but to me the idea of winter always carried a certain air of romance. Back home I loved the days of weather dipping into the 50s and chillier (Northerners, feel free to laugh at me here). Any excuse to pull out the cozy sweaters and settle in with hot tea and a book was fine by me. I guess I didn’t have much experience with cold. To paraphrase a famous snowman, it was more that I liked to imagine what real winter was like when it comes.

When I moved to New England last summer, I quickly realized my homeland was a fancy handwritten invitation to jokes and pity and some variation of “Haha, poor thing, wait until winter gets here.” Which is all in friendly fun, but sometimes it sounded more like, “You, naive one, are gonna die.”

I’d laugh it off, because I thought I knew full well what I was getting myself into.

Y’all don’t understand . . . I’m from Florida. It’s no magical paradise. We have brutal summers with almost daily thunderstorms. I’ve seen sunny skies go dark and split wide open into torrential downpours. I’ve hunkered down in Walmart’s furniture department while hail and blinding rain pummeled the cars outside and watched mighty oaks cave and crush my neighbor’s fence. Also, we have alligators. I’m not afraid.

January came and went with little dustings of snow. Chris would say now and then, “We need at least one good blizzard!” I agreed. It would be a lame first winter otherwise.

Well . . .

I am wrapped in a blanket and listening to the leftover winds from Blizzard Number Four. This morning it looked like Neptune dumped an ocean of snow in our yard overnight. Our neighbors are outside fighting back with shovels and other contraptions to clear the snow from our streets and sidewalks once again. The remains of four storms keep piling higher in every available corner, like mini-mountains, like monuments.

Snow is strange. From the safety of home, it looks like little flecks of white — like innocent soapsuds — peacefully swirling through the air. The sky is hard, gray, heavy and cold. Something about days like these drains the color from the world, so much that one recently dreary Monday all I could think of was how much I missed the color green.

But sometimes, the sunny days come. Escape the city, and you’ll find pristine fields of sparkling white, frosted trees stretching up to warm themselves, sharp icicles that glitter and drip, and clear blue skies that fade into dark, starry nights. Winter’s beauty is harsh, striking. And in that slight thaw, the puddles of snow-slush, and the one stripe of sunlight that sneaks across the kitchen rug, there is a hint of future spring.

I imagine back home the azaleas are blooming. Soon the scent of orange blossoms will fill the air.

It makes me hopeful and a little homesick.

Maybe this is how winter does its work — by covering everything, erasing the landscape, freezing out what’s dying on the surface so the deep roots untouched by frost will flourish again. We often associate winter with death. Maybe it’s a cleansing too, preparing our hearts for the final thaw.

Last week I heard someone say that when this spring comes, it’ll be a lush one, thick and green, watered by the melted snow. I hope so. I am ready.

Profile photo of Jen Rose Yokel

Jen was born and raised in central Florida, but now lives in the strange land of southern New England. Her words have appeared in TS Poetry’s Every Day Poems, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she recently released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores, good coffee, messing about in the kitchen, and local adventures with her husband Chris.


10 Comments

  1. Aden S

    As one who lived in a sunny and snowless area of CA for 4 years, I was thrilled to move to TX and have the chance of snow. Amazingly, my prayers were answered! We had multiple days of snow in the last month, all were beautiful wonders of the Creator.

    Whether it’s passages of scripture reminding us that our Saviour is as white and pure as snow (and that He’s making us to be like Him), a movie where love thaws a frozen heart, or the magical weather one girl experienced after walking into a wardrobe: snow has something symbolically special about it! It’s so much more than precipitation!

    Thank you for this reminder, Jen!

  2. Greg

    Jen,

    Thank you for writing this. I was actually going to email you and your husband in thanks for your poems in the recent Molehill. Imagine my delight in reading “It always rains in Winter Garden” on a break from grading in my classroom- at West Orange High School, in Winter Garden! 🙂

    You and I are opposing transplants- I moved from NH to Florida almost twenty years ago, and I still miss my seasons, and yes, even my snow.

  3. Amanda

    So much happens under the miserable blanket of snow. Bunnies are cozied up in their warren, flower bulbs are storing up the energy to rise to the surface and the grass is lying dormant in hopes of its return to the sun. Even the darkest, coldest winter does come to an end!

    I enjoyed reading this piece. Stay warm…

  4. Karoline

    Y’all stole the snow from here in Alaska! 🙂

    I enjoyed your “cleansing” idea. “washed as white as snow…” That fits better than the idea of death, because I’ve always thought there was something enlivening about a fresh dump of snow. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s exhilarating to be outside when the snow muffles all the sounds, and the air is brisk and clean, and my dog is bounding around with frost on her whiskers.

  5. Dan Rechlin

    I’m a born and bred Northerner, and it feels akin to a rite of passage when one receives the privilege of initiating someone to Winter. It sounds like your husband is doing a commendable job of it. Thanks for writing!

  6. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Thanks everyone! The first winter with snow was pretty magical… especially now that it’s doing some melting this week. 😉 Florida girl didn’t die!

  7. Nicole McLernon

    Yes!! This is what I love about winter!! Because no matter how much I complain and moan about it, spring is coming. Winter terrorizes us with it stark and frozen beauty. And yet, in the midst of the blizzard, when the ice comes shooting through the air as if on a mission to maim and kill, still there is the hope of spring.

    You’ve earned your spring this year, Jen. I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy it in a way you didn’t think possible.

  8. Helena

    This is so good. Azaleas and orange blossoms! I grew up outside of Tampa, and I get what you’re saying about the “harsh, striking beauty of winter.” Florida doesn’t have those sharp contrasts. Everything just slides around among different shades of green. Our leaves always fell in January, not because of some striking death display, but because they seemed to have grown too tired to hold on to their branches anymore. There’s something potent about the colder winters. I like it.

  9. Wendy

    Really enjoyed reading your first winter experience. I am always lived with the seasons and can’t imagine not marking the passing of time by the change of seasons.

    There is something peaceful about a fresh new snow fall and there is a sense of waiting, of anticipation of what is to come. And while there is much about winter I love (how would there be Christmas without snow!), I am ready for the snow to leave and to see green again.

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