Updated: Dec 3, 2019
[To be read in the chilly voice of Winter. Click here if you'd like to listen along.]
I noticed her herbal tea bag tag said, “Earth laughs in flowers.” Emerson wrote that. They didn’t misquote him, but he loves me too. If you haven’t read The Snow-Storm, do so. The man knows me as an artist.
Spring would like you to think that earth laughs in flowers. And he'd like you to be all happy about it. He'd like you all to celebrate my departure. You know what, though? The exhibitionist just likes dangling the earth's genitals all over the place while people smile. He really gets off on watching everyone sneeze incessantly while commenting on how pretty it all is.
You want to really know something? His domain is also mud season. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You know, that time when I’m just saying goodbye and Spring is prying his soggy little fingers under the front door. That time when you step out of your car, having parallel parked in a pile of slush only to be splashed with salty mud by passing traffic. Don’t let spring try to tell you all of that business is on my back.
Earth also laughs in snowfall. And snow won’t make you sneeze. It cleans the air, insulates the earth, freezes the mosquitos and ticks to death.
Did you know that scientists really can’t find a compelling reason for mosquitos to exist? Seriously. I mean, they certainly do a nice job culling the herds and feeding the fish but we’re just not certain they’re necessary. I’m certainly not certain they’re necessary. I do my best to head them off, while all the other seasons foil my efforts with mud puddles and moist heat.
And yet, do I get any thanks? Of course not. Everyone is always damning winter. Maybe you get the occasional token comment about how we hate the cold now and we’ll hate the heat in summer. But people generally forget to resent summer's heat until it’s 90 degrees out. And that’s just not common enough for the hate to balance out. Don't worry. I'm not bitter.
Kidding. I am. And you know it. Just ask that woman who's wingeing about the "bitter cold" when she didn't even bother to put on a jacket. Her mother, Dianne, has been reminding her to put on a jacket for years. I heard her! I was there. Dianne and I have things in common. Ungrateful children.
I get a bad rap in most places. But a few months ago I did hear from one of my fans, a woman in Vermont who beat cancer and loves walking in the calm of a snowy woods at night. Snowshoes or skis, she doesn’t care which. She even likes walking alone, noticing how the snow bounces the moonlight back into the air so it’s never too dim.
People forget about the brightness of winter until a good snowstorm. The days are short, sure, but when else will you see the sun yell up from the ground. The ground! The same beautiful ground that spring mercilessly turns to mush.
Have you ever shoveled snow? I mean really shoveled snow? On a day when it’s about 35 fahrenheit, when the snow is still light but slightly packable, so that the layers of icy crystals slough satisfyingly off your car in crumbly, generous sheets. How satisfying is it? Uh-huh. And when is the only time you can experience that? That’s right. Winter.
You know who I get along best with, of my siblings? Fall. Predictable, right? I mean, the moldering leaves of fall also have a tendency to make people sneeze, but at least fall is honest and gentle about the fact that it’s a time for dying.
“To cook is to kill,” I heard that in a trailer for a movie on Netflix the other day. Oh yes, I listen, even to that. I think that’s how Fall feels as she sloughs off earth’s dead skin. It’s like a pedicure for all creation. Fall comes in with the acetone and the pumice stones, I cover the bare earth with lotion and fuzzy moisturizing aloe socks, spring, well, it scrapes away the last bits of loose skin and starts in with primer and base coat, before summer tops it all off with polish and gloss.
I heard a girl wondering about the trees—oh yes, I listen, even to that. Winter is very quiet, you know. I speak my loudest in howling winds, and even howling winds whisper, though they whisper like a frustrated parent at the kind of restaurant that features bread baskets and interminable smooth jazz.
But back to the girl and the trees. She wondered if they get body conscious, breathless, or tired in winter, stripped of their breathing bikini banquets, their leaves which make everyone so love my cousin Fall. The girl sometimes looks at her naked body and think, "Damn, self, you’re looking good!" But other times she feels like a frump of fluffy foldiness, and would rather be wearing clothes. "Does it vacillate, too, for the trees?" she wondered?
The trees don’t often talk to me, and when they do, it’s a quiet discourse. We whisper back and forth, some retain a few brown leaves to rustle into chill of passing air. Most are too old to be self conscious. They’ve seen too much. Born witness to bunnies and bobcats and blood on the snow. Watched torn pelts decay around ribcages and skulls. "Bodies are so ephemeral," they tell me. "And what is a body any way?" They ask this of the winter winds. We laugh. They continue, "We live with the mycelium, our brothers, whose bodies, or body, singular, can span miles and days beneath the earth."
Have I mentioned my love affair with Fall? I know I have. I have a long memory, but I like to seem relatable. I said we’re siblings and that we're cousins—so I'm sure you're all weirded out right now. Don't be. Think of us the way you might think of divine right monarchs, or Greek gods. That might help.
I also mentioned the mycelium. It always saddens me to watch fall’s beautiful mushrooms shrivel and freeze. Fall laughs in fungus. Maybe not as sexy as spring's flowers, but mushrooms have an understated glory and unceasing variety. They're also much more nourishing than spring’s flowers or summer’s berries.
To those of you who love me, I love you too. I try my best to melt your frosty windshields with cold sun before you leave for work. I tuck your children in for bed, promising snow days and precious, leisurely pancake breakfasts. I kill the mosquitoes and ticks. Yes, I am mentioning it again. I'm proud of that. I want you to live through another damned spring so you can see me again and whisper me your secrets.
When you see the slush of spring, remember, I will be back after my shift in the far south, but not before Fall visits to bless you with mushrooms and transitioning foliage.
To those of you who resent me, I love you, too. You might fall on your ice, but while you’re on the ground, look at the gorgeous tessellations of the frost. I made those for you. I wanted you to see them, but I wasn’t going to yell.