As the first real snow of the year arrives, I found myself watching it fall happily outside the window of my house this morning. I’m off work today, and was cozied up with the gas fireplace going and a hot cup of coffee. I had no urge to go out yet and start shoveling. I just wanted to sit and enjoy the peace and contentment I felt.
Last night I had gotten home early from work, and gone out in the dark to clean off my driveway and the sidewalks. The snow had started several hours prior, and accumulated only a few inches. But the weather forecast was calling for twelve, so I wanted to stay ahead of it.
My street was practically asleep. No one but me was out, except for an occasional passing plow or car. An orange glow from the nearby streetlights illuminated my work, and the snow fell quiet and steady around me.
As I shoveled, I realized how differently I felt this winter already from most of the seasons past. I wasn’t dreading it’s arrival. I wasn’t feeling forlorn and isolated, believing I had seasonal affective disorder, as I have for several years. I knew we had months more of nights and days like this to come, and it was possible that my optimism was somewhat premature. But it didn’t feel that way.
Something in me had changed, it seemed, grown warmer and brighter with the coming cold and early dark. And I welcomed it.
At first I reasoned it might just be some holiday cheer setting in. I had a lovely Thanksgiving visiting with friends. And although I am not a huge Christmas person, I felt compelled to do a bit of decorating this year, buying a door wreath and a few small things for inside the house. The cats have made getting an indoor tree impossible, so I have to confine decorations to anything non-climbable.
I planned, too, to string lights through one of the evergreen trees outside, once the snow is done and I can use my ladder safely again. A tree glowing brightly in the dark is one of the prettiest things to me.
Surprised by my feelings, I wondered at the shift I was sensing. On top of everything else, I found myself looking forward to trying out the new pair of snowshoes I got, and breaking out my cross country skis again after a few seasons in storage.
As pleasant as the winter sports and holiday sentiments are, I don’t think it is just either of those things, however. Instead, I think that it is another kind of unnameable feeling that has allowed everything else to become possible.
I think moving back into town has been a big part of the sea change I’m experiencing, back to a community that I always enjoyed and where I feel a real connection. I have lived in many places since moving to upstate New York twenty-three years ago, and Glens Falls, I realized, is the place I have come to feel most at home.
But also I think something in me is still and quieter now, too, in a way it never was before. There was a restlessness, a constant looking to see what else, what more, or what better was on the horizon that is gone, that I don’t believe I feel anymore.
I used to imagine there was something out there that would make me happy, that would complete the picture, be the final piece of the puzzle I was searching for. Whether a relationship, a place, a project, or anything else, I see now none of those things are the answer.
Yes, they may all be nice to have. But the only real ability to enjoy them comes when I’m happy inside with myself first, content most of the time, and accepting of it all – the bright, the dark, and the gray.
I think I finally see myself and things in my life – as well as other people and their lives – in a clearer, more compassionate way. Not through the lens of what I want them to be, or think they should be, but the reality of it all, as imperfect and impermanent as that so often is. And being okay with those states of being, instead of fighting constantly against them.
One of the poems I wrote recently, “White Flag,” comes to mind. I think this idea was in my head. In it I describe it as a feeling of surrender, after meeting a point where I felt I did not need or want to go further.
Though it might have seemed sad, I meant it as a good thing to feel, to be done fighting something, against myself. I think there is real peace in that, learning to let go, accept, kneel. It was something always very difficult for me to do. But time teaches us all. You either open up a hand or a heart willingly, or circumstances will force it so one day.
All of this was moving through my mind last night as I shoveled snow in the darkness. And today, too, as I watch it still falling outside, sometimes in tiny flakes, sometimes in big fat ones.
Winter may be creeping into my bones, but in a good way. I think the closing down of everything around me – the trees and plants going to sleep, the landscape at rest under the snow – has helped quiet me, as well, and allowed this new sense to begin settling in. I plan to enjoy it for the first time in many years, this change in the world around me that is as inevitable as time itself, letting it all just be whatever it will be.