Sunday, October 14, 2007

Meditations on Winter

Winter is coming and what we have to be grateful for is warmth and fire. What we have to be grateful for is that we live in a place where the darkness reminds us that light is a blessing. The sun sets at six o’clock these days. It’s dusky as I throw burlap over the peppers and tomatoes and lock the stand. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for is the sharp line of gold on the horizon and the pale mark of the moon in the sky. We live in a place where the light changes from day to day and the shape of the days change with each season. This is no small thing. The place where two seasons come together is a sacred place. The edges of things are what make them whole. It is hard for me to remember this. I want to be close to everything. I want to reach out into the world, touch the water, touch the maple and the beech, touch the dirt and the sunlight. I want to watch my hands disappear into the hearts of the things I love. I write and farm because I am always trying to get closer to the earth. The separation between me and the waves and the movement of the clouds at sunset and the life of a beet is an ache in my gut.

But winter is coming, and I am grateful for edges. The edge of the sky in the morning when I wake up and watch the light ink its way across the sky. The edges of my fingers where they touch the skins of potatoes and pumpkins. The dark edges of Walden Pond, the coastline where the waves bless the sand. The edges of my house, which keep the darkness outside for a little while, which draw a line of warmth and light and scent that spells home. The place where two seasons touch is a sacred place. I am starting to realize, as the wind blows heavier and the air swells with the wings of migrating geese, that the edges of things as important as their hearts. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for is the cold that teaches us that warmth is a blessing. What we have to be grateful for, as the darkness approaches and the night comes earlier and colder, is what the darkness reminds us of: that the earth is always turning, that even though we are small our lives matter.

It was a long, grey week, and at the end of it, the clouds blew off and fall came in on a cold, dark wind. Johanna and I canned tomatoes, and halfway through I walked out of the kitchen into the driveway. The night was silent and absolute. I could feel the darkness on my skin and the way the wind had cleared the air and sharpened the stars. Fall was everywhere, the scent of it bringing memories of snow and fire. Night is lonely at this time of year, and even standing in the driveway twenty feet from the house, I could feel the immensity of the night.

Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the edges that remind us of how much it means to have a home, to belong to a place. Walking back into the house on Friday night, the scent of the kitchen slammed against the night like lightning. There was the darkness, and then there was the scent of tomatoes and basil simmering on the stove, the steam rising off the pots, the table laden with mason jars, the kitchen smelling of garlic and parsley, the heat and the light and the solid walls that keep us whole through the night.

Winter is coming what we have to be grateful for is that we get to walk through doorways out into darkness, and back through them into warmth. The loneliness of the night is sacred, and so is the companionship of putting up enough tomatoes to last us through the winter. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the season that run through the center of our lives, forcing us to pay attention to the way time passes in the world: the soft turning over of day into night, the waning and waxing of the moon, the time of strawberries and the time of apples. Darkness and loneliness are always hard, but they remind us to pay attention to the sun. The cold stings our eyes and redraws our faces and reminds us how lucky we are to have the sensation of touch, to be awake in our lives.

Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the yellow circles of light in the windows, the feeling of hot tomato soup as it travels from our lips deep into our bellies, the darkness that carves the moon a brighter white. What we have to be grateful for are the edges of ponds and fields, the skins of butternut squash and dear friends, the way the cold that seeps into our guts makes the voices of the people we love calling our names warmer and truer. Winter is coming. Darkness gives meaning to warmth. Loneliness gives meaning to touch. We have everything to be grateful for.

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