PAGE THREE Dispatch From a Snowy Dream

A Love Affair With Winter's Enchantment

Dazzling carpets of white, fireplaces on snowy nights, iridescent icicles dangling from eaves and vegetables simmering in stews enamor Jana Lee Frazier of winter.
Dazzling carpets of white, fireplaces on snowy nights, iridescent icicles dangling from eaves and vegetables simmering in stews enamor Jana Lee Frazier of winter. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
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Monday, December 22, 2008

On an eve when many people dream of a white Christmas, Jana Lee Frazier dreams of a white winter:

I can't wait for winter. The sort of winter I fell in love with as a child. I love the unapologetic honesty of the season, the spare trees scoured clean of leaves after autumn's gloriously gaudy show. I miss the surprise of a first look at the land after a fresh fall of snow, in the hush of morning before people's footprints and shovels mar the magic, when man's mistakes of litter and graffiti and neglect lie erased in those breathtaking moments before the plows come and the midday sun melts the snow.

I mourn for that magic that I didn't get enough of last year and worry that prevailing wind patterns of the approaching season will keep the cold too far north and the snowfall scant. Call me crazy, but mid-December through mid-March are my favorite months of the calendar. Blame it on my romantic mother. The very first memory I have of my life is of being lifted out of a warm sheltering door frame into a dizzying, dazzling realm of silver and white, where an invigorating wind took my breath away. I was 3 years old. The dull dun Earth I had gone to bed to had been reborn.

The trees were coated in crystal; the world wore a wedding gown. Some ridiculously delicious spell had been cast overnight while I was dreaming of other things. I will never forget the feeling of having been given a present, that to be out in the shimmer and swirl was like having been invited to a party better than my birthday. There were mysteries in the tracks of rabbits and raccoons, the droppings of seldom-seen squirrels now steaming on the carpet of white before me, the tiny etchings of mice tails and pheasant feet. And in the exquisite sequined sparkle of a perfectly formed flake on my mitten. I recall my mother, in only her housedress and slippers, joining me to dance in the drifts.

Today, I long for the feeling of walking into a room from the frigid outdoors and having the warmth greet me like a hug. In the heat of summer, I have missed the pull of the fireplace on a snowy night, the feeling of the hearth being the very heart of the house, dogs draped across the tiles in drowsy stupor, a shawl across my shoulders and a book in my lap. And the ensuing sensation of shelter, of haven, that is close to sublime. I miss watching the dogs watching it snow, their heads cocked to the side, eyes to the heavens marking the rhythm of the falling flakes with measured breaths. And then releasing the dogs into the unrelenting blizzard to witness the hilarity of their irrepressible bliss.

I have missed iridescent icicles dangling from the eaves and spruces draped in sheaths of diamond-studded frost. The dark wings of Canada geese against a gauzy snow-laden sky, their passage a presage of an oncoming squall, their graceful, earnest progress a kind of prayer. Fresh, hot coffee in my car after clearing the windshield, the gratitude that swells inside me for the gift of the warm gloves from my daughter, the cozy comfort of my angora, grape-hued scarf around my neck, the leathery smell of my well-worn boots.

Everything tastes better in winter. Vegetables simmering in a stew have a pungency and a solace a salad seldom has; the making of bread gives my hands a holy chore. The sharp air is effervescent; the stark black-and-white world makes every suggestion of color a cause for celebration. And so I yearn for the sight of blood-red cardinals and jet-black crows on bright satin snow. And silly snowmen with nowhere to go, who don't know or care that life is short, whose presence makes it impossible to believe that the world could be a bad place in which to live. And deer gathering in the gloaming to eat the corn in the cold at my bird feeder.

I admit I am biased, prejudiced even, but I simply cannot understand why so many people dislike winter. Why they shriek at the weather reports forecasting snow, stockpiling canned goods from the supermarket as though under siege by some formidable foe and regarding flurries as nuclear fallout. Why forecasters cringe when predicting a storm as if they are breaking the bad news of an approaching pestilence. But perhaps this will change as the Earth becomes warmer and winter wanes and snow itself becomes an endangered species.

Winter should be a time of resting as the Earth rests, for finding the special blessings of being fallow, a necessary and welcome spiritual sabbatical from the stress of hectic warm-weather pursuits. It could be a season of freedom from the relentless schedules of modern life, a reason to think and plan and play with our kids and our animals and friends and family we see too infrequently. And maybe instead of bracing against the blizzard we could learn to embrace it, relax into the surprisingly rich heart of the storm.

But I worry that climate change will someday make the season's three-month stay a tenure of tepid rain -- before my love affair with winter has a chance to run its course.

Don't get me wrong. When spring arrives in earnest, I will be the last person to turn my back on its own particular brand of beauty. But I will still wish that the winter had lasted longer and feel bereft and left wanting for the snow and wind and wonder and for the authentic chance to dance . . .

-- Jana Lee Frazier, Silver Spring

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