Longing for Winter
I am waist-deep in morning mist that hugs the road, my jogging shoes crunching dew-kissed gravel beneath my feet. Already, I feel the flirtation of winter in the mountains.
Rounding the bend in Ivy Thicket and pumping hard into an uphill stretch of the run, I keep my head down and concentrate on maintaining pace. The exposed skin on my legs has turned pink in the morning cold, revealing hives-scars from childhood that ordinarily stay buried beneath my skin. If I get suddenly cold or suddenly hot, the scars appear like sun-spots all along the insides of both legs, pink patches reminding me of the girl I was, rashed and drugged in the hospital, seething welts from scalp to toe that harassed me for days. Allergies, the doctors had said. Maybe do some tests?
We laugh in life sometimes, when we let ourselves see how far we have come, and when I run this morning that is just what I do. I have long since learned that running to change the shape of my body, the shape I have chosen and molded and fed and formed each day of my life, is a loosing battle. Now I only run when I have the mental endurance to hold this perspective in my mind like a cup holds water; purposeful, surefire. The pounding of my feet helps bring an uplifted presence to my day and like winter, when it finally comes, there is no ignoring it.
But by the time my run is complete, the sunlight has reached the ridgeline of the Black Mountains, illuminating the glistening rock face of Celo Knob and highlighting the flecks of mica along the granite gravel road. Dew evaporates into the warming air, lifting like ghosts in flight from the leaves of a firey buckeye. Later, I go to the big city to do homework while my family runs big errands in the big stores and there are big crowds and even bigger cars and already I am feeling miles away from the peace of the morning jog. I grow annoyed in the heat, certainly ten to fifteen degrees warmer than home and at least as many times uncomfortable. I wear fleece and receive awkward looks from pierced girls in black tank tops. I go to a store and spend money I go not have on big boots, winter boots.
At dusk, home from the errands and heat and harassment, I watch squirrels in their frantic, shining grayness flit about the forest in their planning and harvesting for winter. I read Rick Bass’ Winter [Notes from Montana] and think amore, amore, amore. And I smile and hunker down into my chair a little smile, satisfied and not so alone, when I read the notes from Bass’ journal:
I can picture getting so addicted to this valley, so dependent on it for my peace, that I become a hostage to it. And sometimes, being human, Elizabeth and I have to ask, What are we missing? Usually the easy answer, the quick one, is not a damn thing. But some days – here, as everywhere, I think – a longing sweeps into the valley like a haze. But we can’t define it, can’t pin it down – and it passes soon enough.
I think I can relate.