Against all odds, after nearly half a century, I’ve come around to understanding January.
I know, some of you are thinking it took me long enough.
Now that the deepest and darkest of the winter has passed (though the coldest certainly hasn’t), and the observances, rituals and remembrances that must be paid have been paid, my pockets are empty and the land everywhere is draped in white, a table set in quiet anticipation of a celebration to come.
I don’t yet have a mind of winter, but I’ve stopped railing against it (at least this week) and am seeing it for what it is: a pause, an inhale, a still point.
I’m sure I’ve come to this place before, and will again, but today it seems fresh to me, this peace with January. This appreciation of the way the snow sparkles when sunlight strikes the crystals. This feeling that I’m allowed to waste a day reading or thinking or putting words into lines and no one but the animals will expect me to be responsible. This knowledge that the green ground is quietly waiting beneath the snow and ice, that spring is there, truly a coil, that will burst up given half a chance. If only I can be patient.
When my sister and I were little, we played endlessly with a set of wooden blocks, a handful of matchbox cars, and a collection of cheap plastic animals. One of our favorite, recurring games was to build a village for the animals from the blocks. Small houses, neat yards. Horses, cows, sheep, tigers, kittens, an alligator, Indian and African elephants. They all lived in this village. The town plan changed every time we built, but there was always one constant: a “church” with a steeple and an archway for a door. After we’d spent the afternoon building and arranging it all, we’d put the animals in their proper homes, put a lit flashlight in the church and turn off the overhead lights.
There it was. The town sleeping in the glow of the church. All that afternoon of building came to this: nightfall, quiet, and a soft glow.
March through December is raucous. Things are busy sprouting, then growing, then dying, then being cleared away. Plans are made and enacted. And then comes the night and the cold and everything is quiet and suffused by the glow we can’t even see, until January brings it back to us, minute by minute.
Today we have snow and ice, frost and fog. The people who plow our driveway have been by with the sander so we can escape the house if we want, but today (and today only) I have no want. I have everything I need. Everything I (or Dorothy Gale) ever desired is right here now.