by Jackie Moore Wagner
When the North is in the midst of winter at its most intense, heartiness comes out of all living creatures. It is a strength brought out only by the brink of a living creature’s weakness and survival. There is knowledge within creatures of the deep winter. It is almost a science experiment, of sorts, to see what emerges after such chill, wind and lack of living abundance. First, there is the element of death in the falling of leaves to bare the bark and limbs of all the trees. Next, there is the growing chill each day as time slips deeper into the dark hours and days of winter. Then the white snow comes as a blanket to cover the bare limbs and ground as if in a protection of what is to come. More chill and thaw and more snow with biting winds that can cut a living creature to the core of its living being.
As this chill descends upon the north, so does the hush silence of the air. It becomes so hushed that any small noise becomes intensified as a soulful experience of its own. The cry of a hawk can be heard in the distance and is echoed from the cold with a vibration that can be felt as well as heard. The chill makes the wood of the trees shrink and crack with moans and groans that seem to reflect the internal moans and groans of my body as I walk. The chill is so profound it has a way of sinking into my body so that I can feel my body’s protest. Each step that is taken upon the white path produces a squeaky crunching noise. It is funny how snow has different sounds depending on the level of the chill. The colder it is the drier the snow and the more crackle and squeak it produces upon each step.
This is the type of cold that seems to cling to the hair and skin. Anyone with knowledge of the deep winter knows of bundling in layers to keep the body’s warmth close and the chill out. Layering the clothing is much like preparing for an event. Well, it is an event when planning an excursion out in the brittle, snapping and frozen day. This time of year is an oxymoron of a type when it is oh so bright and sunny yet so cold that a body stiffens beyond the ability for teeth chattering. The only blessing of forgiveness in the bitter clear day is the sun. If bundled quite right and able to find a place of full bright exposure to the sun, away from the wind, then it can be a very pleasant experience. Nothing like the sun on a bitter day to hit you and make you feel warmth from the inside out instead of outside in like would happen on a warm day.