Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life


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November, where I live

Crows call and announce

November’s arrival.

The wind blows in,

full of black wings, returning

-wind and wing alike-

as if they own the place.

*

We sniffle,

snuffle,

sneeze! as they stream overhead,

weary and embattled inside

and out

by waves of germ invaders,

armies released with every uncovered cough,

cough, cough, cough, cough…

*

So

huddle up bakers

and candlestick makers.

Firewood choppers

and hot chocolate chefs.

Christmas lights, ready,

blankets in hand,

now push back the cold

and the night.


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Why Winter is Worth It

I have been around my Los Angeles-born husband long enough to know how the conversation will go.

*****

Person (meeting my husband for the first time):  Where are you from?

Husband:  Well, I’m originally from Los Angeles, but I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for ten years now.

Person (inevitably shocked):  Wow.  Why in the world did you move here?

*****

As the conversation continues my husband will explain what brought him here (a professional fellowship) and why he decided to stay (a variety of reasons related to work, church, cost of living, and a really attractive wife).  But I never get the sense that he convinces them, especially if the conversation happens to take place, say, in early March.  “But… but… but…” they protest, always with different phrases, but 90% of their arguments boil down to the same two grievances.

Winter.  And clouds.

“Why would you move here from there?” (said in the same tone that you would use to ask someone why they decided to rent a U-haul in Heaven in order to descend to Hades) really means “Why would you move from warm to cold?  Why would you move from sunny to cloudy?  Why would you choose to endure winter if you didn’t have to?”

There are so many answers to these questions.  My husband and I (believe it or not) love living in Pittsburgh.  The low cost of living has allowed us freedoms unheard of in other urban areas, we are surrounded by people who inspire us, and my husband can wear his favorite flannel shirts much more often.  But there are two other reasons worth noting.

Winter.   And clouds.

There seems to be a rumor that happiness is composed of warmth and sunshine.  You can take this literally or metaphorically–given a choice wouldn’t most of us choose an easy, problem-free existence?  Who wouldn’t want to just lie around on a warm beach, and hire someone else to deal with our finances, responsibilities and hardships?  Who wouldn’t want (and this is a caricature of LA) 80 degrees and sunny, 350 days a year?

Me.  I wouldn’t want it.  And here is why. Pittsburghers are really, really happy in April.  Go to a park on the first warm weekend and watch the people walking their dogs.  Look at the weary parents smile as their children climb the playgrounds.  Heck, go downtown at lunchtime and watch people in suits fight (very politely) for the sunny park benches.  There is a lightness around here in the spring, a sense of we-survived-another-one.  There is a savoring, a satisfaction, even some pride.  And there is annual amazement (and not just from the children) as the crocuses peek through the snow and the trees begin to show the faintest hint of green buds.

Look at that.  The trees weren’t dead after all.  Spring has come again.

*****

I’m becoming more and more convinced that seasons, real or metaphorical, bring substance and depth to our lives.  The ability to appreciate the sunshine or be grateful for rest are gifts in themselves.  People in seasonal climates certainly don’t have a corner on this (and really, there are seasons everywhere, even in Southern California), but every year we have the tangible reminder that winter can be worth it.

Worth it.  Absolutely.  Because every single winter is followed by a brand-new spring.