It’s just after noon here in Tallahassee, Florida. The temperature outside is 41° F, though weather.com says it feels like only 34° F. I’m inside, so I can’t say. But I believe it. It’s been brutally cold here lately. The winter started off quite fickle. On New Year’s Day, it was 75° F outside. I was comfortably walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. A day or two after (or was it before?) that, it actually snowed here. You could barely see it, but it was there. I had to stand with my arms outstretched, collecting tiny pieces of white fuzz along my black sleeves, in order to convince myself it really was snow. It was. And yesterday, as I waited for a morning bus to take me to school, I froze. I had worn long pants, one of my heavier, long-sleeved shirts, and a jacket to boot. Even so, it felt bitter. Hellish. I use that word quite literally. I know the Judeo-Christian religions opt to speak of Hell in terms of fire and brimstone, but I imagine it as barren, cold, dark, and desolate. Much like winter can feel. Soulless. Vacant. Hauntingly bare, even of warmth.
Here’s the kicker: I kind of liked it. It helped that it wasn’t completely dark outside, that I wasn’t immensely tired and up before dawn. In wintertime, being up before the sun is the hellish icing on the (devil’s food?) cake. Then you’ve got the darkness without and the lack of vitality within that can almost convince you that you’re in the netherworld. As it was, I was out in the hustle and bustle of the day. It was just a colder, grayer version thereof. The kind of day where you can search the sky for an inch of blue and not find it. So what was I so fond of? I think it felt nostalgic to me. More like the genuine winters I remember from childhood. Granted, there wasn’t a blanket of snow here, but there wasn’t always snow as a kid, either. The point is that it felt as wintertime always did to me growing up: timeless, or perhaps more appropriately, frozen. No matter how busy the street you may be standing on, in winter, everything somehow translates into still life. There’s a nostalgic, melancholy quality to it, even if it sometimes feels like death.
Sometimes when I fantasize about the future, I imagine myself living somewhere that has brutal winters. Odds are, I’ll live somewhere with much harsher winters than I’ve had to deal with over the last few years. I don’t aspire to this, but it’s statistically likely. And in some regard, it sounds right and good. I think I’d hate it, but I also think it could feel like home. Not just the home I grew up in, but home-like in general. Having a family and a house and growing old—shouldn’t there be memories involving snow somewhere in there? Maybe there’s something spiritual about facing the harshness of winter and being redeemed of it come spring. Even on a daily basis, there may be spiritual symbolism in being thrust into the cold, dark winter world and fighting against it until you find salvation in the comfort of returning home, baptized in the light and warmth of modern electricity, not to mention family.
So, are they winter wonderlands or winter wastelands? I’m not sure it makes much difference. Either way, they’re quiet. And I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to hear myself think.