Winter has been a blur of white and glittering gray, and the line between seasons has imperceptibly been crossed.
Driving overnight rain plumped dessicated berries, turning garnet into cherry red. The sun erupted this morning, transforming the last raindrops into blurred streaks and dots of cottony white.
A single burst of butterscotch and lavender crocuses in my neighborhood has people lumbering like zombies to stand and dot the salt-cracked street pavement. They stare silently, not quite believing their bleary eyes.
A flash of brilliant color has supplanted the monochromatic blurs which drew our gazes in winter: ashy sea smoke at dawn, stalwart birds’ wings gliding among bare black branches, the seamlessly spinning vortex of snow.
Although I’ve not yet finished my rambles in the rainbow garden, I’ve been invited by Allan at Ohm, Sweet Ohm to take a break and try my hand at black and white.
Black and white seems particularly apt for the season. Formerly bountiful, colorful branches have been stripped bare to black. Vistas first cushioned in soft snow white are suffused with bleak gray, sharpened by menacingly icy shards.
Gray almost always predominates when color is swept away–as it does here on a rock salt- mottled road that had steeped for nearly a season under detritus deposited by heroically-named blizzards.
The roads are so much more interesting now that they’ve eroded into colorless abstract art.
Three years ago.
The crest of a hill down to a frozen pond that was part of the family home and land Jim nurtured. At the left is one of three antique blue-green sheds which were settled on a slope in closely descending order of size (somewhat like the three children we had when we moved in).
The sturdy out-buildings were filled with the detritus of family life: outdoor games; sports equipment, including the soccer nets Jim built with the boys; the red tractor that appeared one day on a flatbed truck (“Um, I don’t remember ordering a tractor” I said to the delivery man who was asking for a check. Jim forgot to mention the acquisition.).
An entire section of the largest shed was devoted to winter, including ice-skating and hockey equipment for those rare, perfect days when the pond would freeze glassy and smooth and a flash of gliding fish underneath the thick ice would thrill us.
It was the home where our children spent most of their school years, and the home where Jim died.
Three years ago, three generations of our family gathered on the hill, covered with a good foot-and-a-half of fresh snow. Smaller cousins (and one of their moms) bore animal-shaped knitted mittens. Jim trudged out with folding chairs so his parents could watch their children and grandchildren. Older children took charge of younger ones. The non-risk-averse built jumps and sailed over them, thunking upside-down in the snow in a spray of ice-blue nuggets and laughing to break the blanketing winter silence.
Many of us knew in a way that it would be the last time Jim was well enough even for such an outing at home.
I’m certain Jim didn’t think of it that way, as he enjoyed every minute outside with his family.
My sister-in-law today sent me a quote from Albert Camus: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” She is at least the second among my sisters-in-law to suggest to me that somewhere within my core is stronger stuff than I think.
Camus also was the source of one of the more interesting takes I had read upon the concept of “living in the moment”–something my husband Jim perfected as an art. Camus‘ Sisyphus came to grips with his infinitely repeating task, illustrating “the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks,” comprising a universe “neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”
Jim was able to view in an astoundingly productive way his own objectively immense struggles. Indeed, I’m not convinced he ever thought of himself as struggling. Nor did he do “battle” with the cancer that took his life; he accepted it, and his heart remained full and fully engaged with nature, with people, with life.
Among the seasons of the past year, winter transitioned particularly grudgingly to spring. Jim finally came home on a sunny, spring-like day as winter was coming to a close. On his last day, spring’s eve, it snowed–not gingerly, but in plump white, sugar-cube sized flakes.
The quote about the depth of winter dovetailed with some of my thoughts about the seasons, and my thought to highlight the lovely poem one of our sons read at his father’s memorial service, Amy Gerstler’s In Perpetual Spring.