Hovering in the Doorway

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So now it is 2019, at least where I live, and freezing cold outside, with a fresh scour of powdery snow on the ground. Winter is a hard time of year for me, because in the colder months so much of life must be lived interiorly, within doors, instead of outside, where I’m arguably at my happiest. I think I must have been meant for sunnier climes, some region without winter, or at least a country where the coldest season still allows for roaming far and wide and taking long walks with only myself for company.

Winter is a time when unwelcome thoughts creep in and make themselves at home, when the succubus of self-doubt settles itself around my shoulders like a hellish mantle. These are the days when I feel like I’m hovering in the doorway of a house where there’s a party going on. I’m never sure if I’ve been invited – should I just go in? Maybe I don’t belong there. Maybe it’s safer to stay where I am, not risk it, just in case I might get rejected or end up hurt or something. Perhaps I should stick to the sorts of things I’ve written in the past, not try anything new, just in case it doesn’t work out. Just in case I fail. Or make a fool of myself.

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We have brought in the new year, Paul and I, with wine and beer and chocolate, which I think is an excellent way to christen any new endeavor, be it chronological or otherwise. An unlimited amount of a nice, crisp Chardonnay goes far to allay the creeping dread and sense of internal dullness one feels in winter. For me, the shortening of the days has always portended dismay, a worsening of my illness, but the lack of light isn’t the worst of it.

That would be the cold. We’re supposed to be a temperate marine climate here, but the word ‘temperate’ allows for a significant amount of stretch: at the moment, the wind chill is -21C and we are laboring under a blizzard warning. Being shut inside makes me feel restless and a bit panicked; to be honest, I feel like I’m imprisoned in a cage – in this case, a cage of ice and snow and frigid temperatures. Luckily, Paul is adept at recognizing when my agitation threatens to burst its banks, and will suggest I exercise, or mop the floors or clean behind the toilet.

Don’t laugh. Housework is wonderfully remedial.

We spent Christmas with my sister, who is a marvelous cook. I’m the oldest; she’s the youngest – and the only member of my family who has read (and praised) everything I’ve ever written. She has been my advocate for as long as I can remember, a wonderfully sensible soul with two beautiful girls and an open heart, and she reads my work, praises my work, praises me for having done the work.

That’s an incredibly rare degree of love and devotion. Moving into a brand new year, I’m enormously grateful to her.

Happy New Year.

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White are the far-off plains…

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White are the far-off plains, and white
The fading forests grow;
The wind dies out along the height,
And denser still the snow,
A gathering weight on roof and tree,
Falls down scarce audibly.

Archibald Lampman: “Snow”

 

I went for a walk this morning along a hiking trail that runs through a local park. Lola’s thirteen now, and the longer walks like this are a bit beyond her, so I left her to snooze on her dog bed and took the camera with me. We had a significant fall of snow about a week and a half ago, followed by some more the other night. The woods are, as Robert Frost wrote, “lovely, dark and deep”, their hidden places full of peaceful silence.

Something I love about this city is how nature is just right there, on the doorstep. There’s no need to drive for hours; a five-minute trip to this particular park and I’m immersed in the natural world. I met quite a few dogs: Jack the malamute, whom I’ve met before and who always wants to play; Holly the golden; a gorgeous German Shepherd; a Westie and a miniature Schnauzer; a Boston Terrier in a shearling jacket.

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The trail winds up hill and down, following the course of a little stream. What always strikes me about winter is how quiet it is; I heard nothing except the whitter of a passing chickadee, and the stream.  Every Christmas someone decorates the trees along the path with pretty ornaments, stars and tinsel. I loved how this red bulb stood out against the white of the snow and the fir tree’s radiant green:

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I’ve no idea who puts the bulbs there, yet they have appeared every holiday season, year after year, as long as I can remember. The birds don’t seem to mind them, being more occupied with finding food and shelter. They aren’t that interested in me, probably thinking that here’s another human passing through their territory, nothing to see here, folks. Besides Christmas bulbs, some people leave seeds and cracked corn on the ground and in the hollow places of spruce and fir trees. I love these offerings. I love that people care enough about these other beings to leave food for them in the midst of winter.  I love that nobody steals the Christmas bulbs or the tinsel or the sparkly stars. That people understand when to leave it be.

The world weighs heavy on me lately. I’ve been trying to limit my media consumption to local stories about miscreant police officers, missing fishermen, who won the election in Such and Such a place here on the island, and the brewmaster looking for unwanted fruitcake. I’ve had to turn away from international news, especially coming from the United States, because it causes me no end of personal distress, depression, and despair. I have learned to bolster myself with positivity and offer myself comfort and compassion. Sometimes it really feels like we are standing on the edge of an abyss, and I don’t know if we still have time to step away and save ourselves. I hope we do. I hope we have the common sense to turn away from narcissistic pedants and idealogues and fascists who insist the entire world should march to their particular drum.

In the meantime there’s the quiet of the winter forest and the peace of wild things.

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Snowshoe hare tracks in the snow.