finding warmth in winter ice

winter iceWinter ice has encased my house. It hangs from my gutters like tinsel on a Christmas tree or stalactites in a cave, dripping in columns up to 10 feet long. Unless they melt away today I will be imprisoned.
Last winter one of these suckers fell from my roof and bashed in my AC compressor. The thing looks like it was hit by a meteor.
I love the ice, dangerous as it is. I love its sleek elegance, the way it catches the morning sun and glows from within. And I love how it signals the superiority of winter. We like to think we can master the elements, but the ice and snow tell us otherwise. One false step and the ice on my porch steps could paralyze me.
Winter has come to us with a wallop, apparently here to stay. Welcome winter! I am so ready to hunker down and live within your icy envelope. Just give me a working furnace, hot coffee and a good book and I will gladly submit to your mastery. For a bit.
Not so the woman I visited the other day who lives in a trailer with four girls. She has no gas heat with which to hold the cold at bay. A space heater is no match for the icy air seeping through broken windows and an inch-wide crack around the door. The floor offers no warmth for them to sleep on, beds being temporarily unavailable.
What for me is a season of happily hunkering down is for others a season of terror. Some will endure it sleeping in ratty bags underneath freeway overpasses. A few will die there. I once spent a night with a man who hunted these people up and invited them inside shelters. No thanks bud, they said. I’d rather freeze my butt off out here than warm it up with a bunch of drunks, then have to listen to the damn Bible lesson.
Winter nights must seem like an eternity under an overpass. But for me time has gone into fifth gear. All things are pulled forward by the tractor beam of Christmas. No one is making plans till it’s over. “Let’s get together after the first of the year.” Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. For now, the Christmas blitz is more than enough to keep me occupied.
For all the warmth I cherish this time of year – bundled up in my easy chair with a book, watching “Homeland” by the fire with dear Andrea, glowing inward at the sound of ancient carols – there is a coldness too. What once was family filled with parents and grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles, has largely died off or scattered. My daughter, sister and brother live hundreds of miles away. Between divorce and jobs, there is no centering hearth now. The old family homestead, where my parents once welcomed us like lost sheep, sits empty.
A new kind of family is in process, anchored by Andrea and me. It is precious and will become more so with time. Yet the family that once was, full of singing and laughing and enticing aromas from the kitchen, hovers in my memory like a ghostly movie of Christmas past. I can’t help but miss it, even as I gratefully embrace all the blessings of now in another sacred season of love.
And I can’t help but wonder about who is out there in the cold, bodies shivering, or memories of joy encased in ice.

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3 Responses to finding warmth in winter ice

  1. Carolyn Heines says:

    So beautiful and touching and overflowing with love…thank you

  2. marg says:

    My heart really goes out to that woman in the trailer. We should start a fund for her and her kids, to get some windows and insulation into that trailer. Let me know, because I would love to help! If we all pitched in a little, her family could have a warm and cozy Christmas, which would stir up a lot of love in the hearts of all who help out.

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