I’ve never warmed to winter. Up here in Minnesota, that makes me a whiner. Around these parts there’s this pride in our thickened skin and pond hockey and snow tires, that I’ve never really understood. Nordic folk like to fancy themselves eskimos, for a third of the year anyway.
Last week, the day the elements turned arctic (-30F), I was working at the school when a late student came sauntering through the door wearing a hoodie- half zipped over a t-shirt, two thin breathable threads. No hat, no gloves and clearly no sanity. Almost distraught, I implored her,
Are you loco? Feeling hypothermic maybe?
She cackled and declared,
I’m a Minnesotan, bitch.
Maybe I am just being a *B*, but I swear this season is trying to kill me. It puts me on cliff’s edge. I’m not naive anymore to go gazing underneath the calculating icicle, just waiting to stick me like a sitting duck. I avoid driving on the black ice roads, which always feel like a walk on the plank. Even on milder mornings I still load on the layers because its all a ruse luring me into a late afternoon death march. I don’t even trust the weatherman anymore- he may be in on it.
The chill puts me on the defensive and makes me more of a recluse. I am uptight and less inviting. Winter always saps whatever reserves of stamina and good graces I have left. I find myself meandering aimlessly through radiated rooms.
It’s not seasonal depression, thank God, but it carries the scent of a spiritual hibernation.
Part of me is to blame. The spring, summer and fall have always been integral to those ethereal hours. My room, or any indoors for that matter, aren’t suitable for prayer because it brings back memories of me as a young boy laying in bed listening to my words rebound off the walls.
I like the earthiness of the outdoors, the openness and in the carved out corners, the privacy.
I have hideouts where I go when God feels gone. Little sanctuaries littered across the map of our town, by the lake and in the woods and beside the fields. But they’re all dead or asleep now. I can’t nuzzle near their branches and hum with the birds, because this season has stolen them away. The sun can’t seduce them back.
All I want is to just sit in my spot by the lake where the rays dance and spin off the lily pads, diving down shallow depths, revealing the rhythm in their shimmers off the rocks and the fish. There, it doesn’t matter if I am holding the Bible or Brennan Manning, the rhythm is invitation enough. Prayer is an encounter with His wild imagination. The trees bend beneath the cool breeze, sending cotton and leaves spiraling down all around.
I just miss the Creator courting me.
It could be that this longing is nothing more than an excuse for my bankrupt prayer life. Maybe I just need the aesthetics too much. It’s possible that what I really want is an emotional release that imitates spirituality, like the music behind the closing prayer at church.
Perhaps this climate reminds me too much of those bleak and abandoned stretches of my soul. The spaces that have gone untilled for too long. Where my pocketbook turns a deaf ear to my conscience and my time goes to die with waste. Those places that none of us really care to visit, because they don’t belong in who we know ourselves to be.
But it all seems to boil down to the same thing- a calling for the Divine from the desolate. Holding out for my dove with its leafy twig. Recalling those warm days when my faith had muscle. Letting hope and nostalgia enter into time and space to nourish my starving spirit.
For now, I’ll be Noah, drifting through a world stripped of life, dragging relics of things that once were. Missing those days of color and growth. Feeling far out in the center of the of Siberia. Just waiting on those first steps of spring.
And living as if they will come tomorrow,