Finding joy in a harsh season
by Ken Rummer
No walk this morning. The overnight temp touched -18℉ with wind chills in the 30s below zero. Brrrr. I hear that pond ice is now thickening by an inch a day.
Ancient poetry from the book of Job captures the season:
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
and cold from the scattering winds.
By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
Job 37:9-10 NRSV
Now I mean no disrespect to the divine artistry in drift and flake, but my thoughts of late have been bending toward a place where you can drive on the ocean beach and eat oranges off a backyard tree and get warm all the way through.
In recent years, this has been the time on our retirement calendar to spend a few weeks in Florida. But this year, with the virus still running amok, we are making no snowbird plans.
During previous visits, I would see on the national weather that Iowa was getting a blizzard with the mercury dropping below zero, and I would think: Poor blighters. Sure glad I’m not there.
Missing the worst of winter weather is a definite payoff for going south. But I’m realizing that, had I made the trek this year, I would have missed out on some good things, too.
Fog frost on bush and branch. Sun warmth through big coat. Snow blanket on red birdhouse. Mallards eating cracked corn by the creek trail. Small sledder in a pink parka launching off her snow ramp, catching air. Had I been in a warmer place this winter, I would have missed all that.
Winter can be a harsh season. When your furnace is out and your pipes are breaking, you probably don’t want to be reminded to watch for diamonds catching morning light on new snow. Still, I think I’ve been finding some.
Like saluting my neighbors when we’re all blowing snow from our driveways. Like catching the pop of red a cardinal brings to brown branches over gray drifts. Like feeling cold toes settle into a bright patch of sun-warmed carpet.
Dread of winter tells me that all is shivers and blizzards and dark before five, but wintering in Iowa I get to enjoy the bluest of skies through a web of bare branches, and the almost moonlight of city lights dancing between low clouds and new snow.
About 300 years ago, Antonio Vivaldi published The Four Seasons, his famous quartet of violin concertos. The score of each concerto includes a sonnet in Italian. The CD notes suggest that Vivaldi may have written the poems himself.
The one for the winter concerto refers to shivering, stamping feet, chattering teeth, slippery walking, and winds in pitched battle—all recognizably wintry to a person living in Iowa. But the closing line takes a surprising turn: “This is winter, but it brings joy.”
From what I’ve seen this year, I think Antonio was right.
Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts may be read at http://presbyterianmission.org/today/author/krummer