“In the depths of Winter I finally learned
there was in me an invincible Summer.”
I hate the cold weather. I’m not a crisp snow loving, snowball throwing, northern hemisphere winter kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m inside, next to the fire, suitable alcoholic snifter in hand and laughter around me, then I’m happy. But winter for me is not my season. I’d prefer to be dry, hot and somewhere below the equator. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve probably spent more winters under the sun than I can remember.
So what is winter? No longer a season defined by weather, wind or the temperature of eggnog. However, everyone of us knows it, feels it and at some point in our lives, needs it. I’m believing that it’s the step away from the warmth within the confines of our hearts. It’s the chill that sits in our veins leaving ice crystals spiking and tearing into us until we bleed internally and then wonder why the bruising doesn’t show.
I first learned about winter on an African night when the moon shone through my window and the shadows of trees spilled onto the end of my bed. There I stumbled over an emptiness I couldn’t fill. There I felt the howl of hyenas splinter my bones as sure as I could have been consumed. Winter stories have continued to come and go throughout my travels. There was the winter of camping beneath the palm trees on the ground where the spirits lay. My scientific mind could not believe the tribal elders and so we pitched camp. Winter arrived, in the tropics, that night, unexpectedly, when the winds brought down a tree on the tent beside me, splitting bones and smashing dreams. Winter came again when a thousand teaspoons manifested into tears and there were no tissues to catch them, no hands to wipe them. But it’s not just me. Winter has scarred mouths, forbidding tongues to speak of non-forgotten children; it has burned the soles of feet of those who have dared to cross thresholds of love without promise of result; it has surrounded the flowers on coffins, each letter of rejection and every key which lost its lock.
But no matter how winter has chosen to strike, stroke or sneak up behind, I’ve learned it can never win. For each time its talons break the skin, tear into the flesh and rip tendons, the tiniest spot of colour is noticed and in that vision, spring is bypassed and summer appears. The chest of the redbreast is warm, the prickles of holly protect the fruit of berries and mistletoe’s poison brings the purity of white light, shining overhead.
And it’s in every darkness of my deepest winters that I have turned to myself, read the almanac I found inside the outer casing of a chestnut gathered in my youth, that I have seen the sun once again, felt the blessing of summer’s breeze tickle my eyelashes and melted the ice in my veins, ready to be renewed and to grow once again.
Text: © JL Nash, 2014
Images: © Pato Rivero, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.