Photo above by Allen Sklar, The Dispatch
An Early Winter Weekend: The Blues and The Bliss
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
My late husband, Chris, and I used to talk about what we hoped our retirement would be like. I wanted a cabin by a lake in Maine. He wanted a condo on a beach in Florida. We laughed about our different visions and compromised – We would live in a lakeside cabin in Maine during the summer and head south to Florida during the winter.
Of course, the best laid plans can go awry. Chris died of leukemia in 2008 and I remarried in 2012. Jim and I now live year-round on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We had our first snowfall of the season this weekend and it got me thinking about that condo in Florida! I woke up early to the sound of an unusually loud clatter from our heat pump. Jim diagnosed the commotion as ice on the fan blades and reminded me that we’ve been through this before. Nevertheless, he turned off the heat pump ad turned on the auxiliary electric heat. My anxiety abated.
I’m not wild about snow but I have to admit that opening the blinds to see snow-tipped marshland grasses is a great way to start the day. One lone mallard duck peered back at me when I gazed at the winter wonderland just out of my back window. Where was the duck’s mate? I smiled as I made up a story: Maybe Mabel, the female mallard, sent Maxwell, her intrepid mate, to the ducky grocery story to pick up the last gallon of cracked corn. Maxwell swam hurriedly past my window, undoubtedly clutching his purchase underwater. I know, I have a strange imagination!
There’s another winter bird that has piqued my interest lately. Apparently, in 2014, there was a major increase of lemmings, the favorite food of the Snowy Owl. This increase in a major food source caused an increase in the number of owls that survived and thrived. As their numbers increased, they flew further south from their arctic environment to escape competition for hunting territories. Snowy owls were spotted on Assateague Island that winter, further south than they have ever been seen before. Now, in the winter of 2017, local photographers are again spotting these beautiful, mysterious birds only thirteen miles from my home. I can’t wait to see one myself.
As the current snowy weekend wore on and the outdoor temperatures didn’t climb, I found my spirits going downhill. I couldn’t get motivated to do housework or make the casserole I had planned for dinner. Chuck and Hunter, who seemed disgruntled by their missing daily walk, took out their displeasure by peeing all over the living room. After mopping up for the third time, I headed back to the bedroom where my cozy bed promised escape and Alexa, my Amazon Echo, offered the opportunity to listen to a book on Audible.com. Ah, bliss! I spent the next four hours under my down comforter, listening to Take Me With You, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Little did I know when I started the book that it would highlight some significant experiences from my own life. Here is Google’s summery of the book’s plot line:
“August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go.”
Books are like that. They shine a light on what makes up a life. Like August Shroeder, I was a teacher and I was also disheartened by unengaged students. While I’ve never had an addiction problem (except for Afrin nasal spray which I finally conquered after thirty years of misery), Jim and I have both struggled with how to address it in family members. This book also chronicles a summer trip to several national parks in the west – destinations at the top of my bucket list. I, too, visited Yellowstone National Park with my daughter – a trip that will forever be etched in my memories. As a result of August’s description, I may plan a trip to Bryce Canyon next summer. The bottom line from my reading this weekend is that winter is the perfect time to read a good book!
Well, the weekend is winding down and I’m heading out of the door to attend a holiday concert of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. The concert promises holiday bliss and no winter blues!
I hope you enjoy the following poem.
Sonnet 97: How like a winter hath my absence been
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.