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the suspended season

the suspended season

a tribute to winter

We are on the brink of spring; the promise of snow days and snow-ins are past, fulfilled promises. Our mittens, hats, and scarves progressively retreat toward the back of our closets, developing embryonic dust bunnies. We unveil our shorts and tanks from the recesses of our drawers, exposing their fibers to our overhead, fluorescent lights. As we rejoice about the return of lost daylight hours, I lament winter’s passing.

*

I was born on February 3 in the midst of a snowstorm. I came home from the hospital bundled in pink blankets that restricted my mobility and suffocated my infantile arms. My brown eyes poked out of the soft cloth that enveloped my body. As a snowstorm baby, I have an appreciation for winter. I saw snowflakes and snowdrifts before I saw sun and grass. I saw white before I saw green, and I will always be a baby of a white winterland. Growing up in a suburban, marine town in Rhode Island, I colored in the snow with food dye before I put crayons to stark white paper. I saw the ocean remain relentless in the cold, refusing to stop moving though the snowed-in town stood at a standstill.

*

Though winter becomes less inviting as we grow older—the shoveling, the defrosting of our car windshields before driving to work in the early morning, the windy, whipped walk from place to place—winter gives more than it takes from us. Winter reminds us to let others into our homes and into our lives. We hold doors, gateways to spaces erupting with warm air, open to those behind us.

*

Winter drives us into our homes to reconnect with our family. Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day are holidays rooted in tradition and community. These holidays anchor us in time and in place. They are points of return that remind us who and what truly matters.

Winter is about warmth. The process of gathering around warmth or in warmth reconnects us. On Christmas Eve in my Unitarian Universalist church, each member of the congregation holds a candle and we collectively sing “Silent Night.” We see everyone’s light, as we feel another person’s warmth when we huddle and cuddle and gather and hold fast against the wind, our hands clenched and locked with the hands of those beside us.

Simultaneously, winter permits us to slow down and be alone. We brace the stampede of storm-shoppers and raid the grocery stores for Entenmann’s donuts and hot chocolate, preparing to hibernate for a night, a day, or a season. We submerge ourselves in our bedding, watch an oldie, a goodie, or a comedy, and spend time with ourselves. Winter gives us a free pass to recharge.

*

Under a snowdrift of blankets, curled up against the cavities of each other’s bodies, two people rediscover one another. Millions of snowflakes hit the pane, unaware that a sheet of transparent glass will intercept their descent. The snowflakes strike the window like a baby’s cough hits your hand. Within the snowy atmosphere that surrounds the house that supports the room, we create a hot air pocket with our breath and fill the void between our lips with warm words.

*

In the darkness of winter, we make our own lights. We sprinkle lights into our bushes, light private candles, and put electric candles in our windows so no one gets lost in the storm. Like lighthouses, our lights call us back home and back to one another. We remember that we are sources of light and we do not need permission to shine our light. The light can last for eight days when it was supposed to last for one.

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Our sweaters, puffy jackets, fluffy socks, pom-pom hats, and encapsulated, wool hands are barriers that protect us when we feel like we need protection. Under layers of winter clothing skin, I hide my unshowered body and I feel hugged when there is no one to hug me. Winter clothing gives us womb-like resiliency. We are untouchable and impenetrable under the safety of our bulky sweaters that create a mobile home, like a turtle shell, around our bodies.

*

Part of the sacredness of winter is its transiency. We gradually shed our winter skin and feel the relief that accompanies the natural molting of seasons. We open our windows and feel the hybrid winter and spring, old and new, air. In this suspension of atmosphere, of season, of time, we are equal parts retrospective, hopeful, and anticipatory. Coldness nurtured and prepared us for warmth; it reminded us what true warmness is.