One learns to forge headstrong against the wind in a cold climate. Like frosted layers of cake, we decorate ourselves against the chill as we venture out to meet busses and trains, warm up our cars, shovel snow, go to work, and navigate the elements.
Some winters, like last’s, seem hardly like winter at all with little snow and few days below freezing. We fret and worried about the bulbs and buds and lack of moisture, but, truth-be-told, we mostly enjoyed being able to be outside with more than our eyelids showing.
Then, there are winters like this one, with no foreseeable end to the cold. Winters where taking the garbage out is an ordeal; not the chore at hand, you see, but the layers of socks, sweaters and boots. The bulky coats and gloves, the hats and scarves and shawls that precede the dreaded “opening of the door”!
The soft, flurry snow, like eider down, is magical to be in. Some of us, with a child’s glee, still sneak a lick with our tongue as the flakes float down, giggling at our age defying mischief. It is the driving sleet, with the force of 30 mile per hour winds that bend us, like mighty oaks in a storm. We bow our heads, for the force of the snow is like nails of ice, and we trudge silently forward, solitary floes of neatly packed forms in the snow.
It is easy to become solitary in one’s thinking when a hard winter is upon us; to hurry in to the warmth of home, hot chocolate, warm soup, perhaps a fireplace to soothe one’s spirits. Safe, it is understandable to forget the cold winter raging outside our window, and those whose jobs are working in it. The mail carrier and the crews from streets and sanitation. Those de-icing the planes in sub-zero temperatures and the bus drivers whose doors open wide every few blocks. We may, in our comfort, forget the emergency medical technicians, the firefighters, the police. Those who serve and protect us, even, especially, in storms.
As I watched the chilling news of the horrendous crash in Indiana yesterday, where some 17 semi-trucks and dozens more vehicles piled into each other on an interstate highway along a section of road where winter effect snow coming off of Lake Michigan suddenly blinded drivers, I thought, anew, of the dangers of winter. As of this writing, three people are dead, another critically wounded, and dozens more injured, but, thankfully, released from hospitals. I prayed for their families, their injuries, their sorrow and recovery, and I prayed for the workers who had to untangle the trucks mangled atop cars, the twisted bodies, the twisted steel, in frigid temperatures, through the long afternoon and the long night.
Like the Roman god, Janus, from which January gets its name, winter has two sides, the darker of which crossed the threshold of life yesterday afternoon.
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