Updated: Jan 14, 2019
I have come home to Iowa for Christmas and New Years this year. I arrived and the temperature dropped almost 40 degrees overnight. The thermometer today reads -4 degrees Fahrenheit and tomorrow the high will be -2.
Time outside is precious and painful, movement is warmth and each breath simultaneously chills and sustains, emphasizing the spark of life.
Stars are crystalline on clear, cold nights. Reach up and take a handful down to spread on the ground to lay glittering until the morning light burns them away. In the stillness, the crunch of the snow, the smoke of the breath give frame to life.
Snow that falls when there is no wind has a quality of its own - a queer deadening that is heard as much as it is not. It’s scent is as sharp as a blade in the darkness, ready to take life.
Wildlife pass the test of cold with amazing fortitude. Melted spots of snow turned ice where deer have lain for the night, somehow warm enough to survive. Black birds flock to spilled corn, murmurations rising into the sky, tiny hot specks of life in the chill. Eagles in the sky, chase, wheel and dive for the right to mate, vying to pass on life.
And the trees, stiff and skeletal, stand rattling and creaking in the winds. A friend from California once asked “Are you sure they come back in the spring?” They do, buried deep somewhere in the roots, under the bark, hidden in the limbs, husbanding life.
There is much life there is here in Iowa during the spring, summer and fall, but the winter clarifies that life, making it pure, hot and sharp. All lazy fullness is gone, cut away and disposed of by the cold, scraping away all excess, leaving bare life.
Winter has come.