I spent four hours today, out in the snow and cold and wind, shoveling the back walk, the driveway and cleaning off the cars. I'm sure tomorrow I'm going to be pretty stiff, but right now, I'm all warm and fuzzy and a bit wired. I was just outside having a cigarette and another cup of coffee, and it is really cold, but it is very still and the sky is what pilots call "severe clear". Orion is continuing his hunt in the South-west sky, and Mars is about thirty degrees off his right shoulder, a bright, orange, twinkling orb, set apart from the rest of the heavenly lights, shining in their winter blue white. Stars in Winter have a different look than they do in the Summer night sky. They are sharp and thin, and incredibly bright, especially against the velvet black of the midwinter heavens. They are more like little jewels, strung about, randomly, adorning the breast of the cold, yet enthralling night. In Summer, they seem to take on more of a yellow hue and twinkle so much more, as our sight is filtered by the uneasy and ever in motion warm atmosphere, but on a night like this, they are so sharp, so clean, so clear, so much more real. Or, perhaps, our perception is different in these Winter months, sharpened and honed by the cold and the seemingly darker dark, aided by, I think, our own concentrated existence. Life in Winter is a bit harder than in Summer. We live minute to minute, driven by some deep down necessity to survive, that, even as we are surrounded by such modern conveniences as well heated homes, well stocked larders and insulated clothing, we are still very afraid of the cold and the dark. We still feel the terror and stare into the unknown of the bleakness, as we huddle in our shelters, stare through the flames and smoke of our meager fires, wondering what is out there, just outside the circle of light cast by our pyre, and worrying that it may never, ever be warm again, that the fruits of the land may never return, that we may be lulled into the warmth of an eternal sleep as one quiet, final way to fight the iciness of our lives, the wretched chill that has clasped it's frozen talons deep withing us, freezing our very souls...
But we prevail. We are unique. As we stand and shiver on a night such as this, we are warmed within, just a bit, by the harsh beauty, our sight made more keen by the sharpness of things, and the joy of surviving just one more day. We are not really so far removed from our ancient family, maybe. We recapture a bit of who we are and from whence we came every time we stand outside on such a night as this, and stare in wonder at the darkness above and bask in the warmth of just being alive, if only for a fleeting moment.
Tomorrow, the sun will be out. The snow that hangs from the edges of the roof like some soft, white and cold bunting hung in honor of some Winter celebration, will soften and, in an unexpected moment, come sliding down, to bury the back walk again. The snow on the ground will soften under the rays of Old Sol, and settle and then, at night, the surface will take on such a wonderful hard sheen and all the world will look painted with a high gloss white under the light of the stars and the waning moon.
Well, dearest friends, even the coffee cannot hold off the sleep that calls me after today's labors, so I think I shall go commune with my ancient ancestors for a short while more, have another smoke and enjoy the stillness of this beautiful Winter's night. Then, off to the Land of Nod.
I bid thee all fair 'eve, my fellow wanderers. Fare thee well.