Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Winter feels different this year

My summer tires were switched over to winter ones on a warm, sunny December morning. It was one of those days that made me forget that it had snowed a few weeks earlier and that I was welcoming the warm breeze on my face while standing in front of Heffernan’s because those tires would be needed soon. Now I watch vehicles creep slowly down the slippery road in front of my house. A week ago, for a moment, I could pretend that winter was a long way away.
This year I notice that my attitude toward winter’s impending presence had changed. I did not dread the coming season. Unlike in previous years when the time changed, I wasn’t depressed that darkness came in early afternoon and lingered until seven in the morning. I expected it and it was predictable. In this time of COVID-19 when nothing can be relied upon, it feels good to rely upon winter coming, as it always does. Its erratic nature is predictable and comforting. As I drove home on my winter tires, clouds gathered and by the afternoon the cold had drifted in and chilled the air. I had enjoyed spring and fall within a matter of hours while preparing for winter to come, and I was not surprised by that.
Last year, instead of enjoying the day as it was offered, I would have thought about how the fine weather would not last and winter would be slushy and dark (grumble, grumble). The pandemic has made me realize how important it is to appreciate what I have rather than what I may lose. This is a time that continues to bring stress because of its unpredictability. It’s so easy to focus on the stress and forget how fortunate I am.
When Governor Scott announced yet another proclamation that would force us to limit gatherings to people we lived with, I despaired, even as I understood the rationale. I cannot visit with people whose company I enjoy. Like many others, I have Zoom fatigue. At the same time, I am grateful that I have access to internet at my home. Others have to sit outside buildings in order to get online because they don’t have what I take for granted. I take time out of my day to call, email, or text a friend or family member. I write cards and am grateful when I receive notes from friends and colleagues (Yay, snail mail!).
In my despairing moments, I wonder what will become of humans. During those times, I predict the future: The pandemic will last for years. The pandemic will end within a few months. Neither of those give me comfort because they are based in my fears and fantasies and remind me that nothing is certain.
What I can rely on is what I see in front of me: The snow melting from the trees, the gray sky with breaks of December sun. The cool air upon my face as I listen to the winter wind. I take comfort in the certainty of winter.
Ruth Farmer is a published essayist and poet. She is sole owner of Farmer Writing and Editing (www.ruthfarmer.com).
 

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