Oh, I know what you think about it. I used to think about it that way too.
The Thomas Kinkade visions of wintery perfection, the fire glow casting warm squares of light on the white blanket outside the window. Lights turned down low, friends calling “Yoo Hoo,” one-horse open sleighs, Parson Brown, and two eyes made out of coal.
In my mom’s box of snapshots, few depict me as rosy-cheeked, bundled-up snow bunny, since we lived in South Carolina (although there is one photo of me bundled in a red coat and hunched over in a snow tunnel my parents dug during the blizzard of 1988.) Snow was a treat I could usually only hope for when my family visited my grandparents in Maryland every Christmas. But even whispers of snow in South Carolina sent me to the window like a child searching the skies for Santa.
For my first thirty years, though I usually invited it, at worst, I was ambivalent to wintery weather—until I moved to Northern Kentucky.
My first weekend here, the sky dumped several inches of the stuff, and I had to drive the twenty minutes to my first day of work, knuckles around the steering wheel as white as the snow piled on my car hood. No ice scraper, no snow boots, no snow-bird intuition—nothing but my fear of sliding off the road or of slipping on the ice and dying like Dr. Atkins.*
Whispers of bad weather send me checking the weather app for the little snowflake symbol, praying for clear skies and warm days, and dreading the moment Laura walks over to the patio doors and announces, “It’s snowing.”
Swiftly I’ve crossed that line in the snow from ambivalent admirer to Heat Miser.
But Kentucky won’t choose a season. Last Thursday, I sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes while my plane waited to be de-iced before I flew to Maryland (where I woke the next morning to two inches of snow which politely melted by noon.) Less than a week later, I walked through the gardens at work in a sleeveless shirt, enjoying the 74-degree weather that I know won’t last through this week. And Kentuckians keep telling me about the years that they’ve seen snow in April.
I’m thrown off by the hope of the unseasonably warm days and the dread of the icy ones. “To everything there is a season. . .” But it just seems that winter used to be winter and summer, summer. These days the seasons keep me guessing. And I’m very tempted to be frustrated by the inconsistency, as if nature owes me an experience.
It makes me think about how that spirit of entitlement exhibits itself in other areas of life. I’m so happy here on Goose Hill with my best friend, Laura. But sometimes I want more—more stability, more adventure, more purpose, a love life. This isn’t what I expected my life to be like at thirty. It feels a lot like snow in July.
We are conditioned to believe that youth will be free from burdens, that our twenties will bring us marriage, that middle age will bring us the American dream, that old age will bring retirement. And so when, as children we are burdened with the failures of our parents and as thirty year olds we’re still not married and as middle aged and older people we are burdened with aging parents or raising our grandchildren, we tend to resent it—as if life owes us an experience.
The truth is that sometimes you sweat in December and shiver in July: our seasons of life are what we make of them. Sometimes the snow doesn’t fall, the trees don’t bloom, the sun doesn’t shine like we expect. It is expectations that get us in trouble instead of accepting the seasons as they come. As Gandalf said in Lord of the Rings, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
The geese remind me each morning, each evening, of how to spend these fluctuating days. They land on the ice just as they land on the water, hopeful for thaw and ready to paddle and dive when the ice melts from beneath their feet. But until then, they make the best by scavenging the banks, looking expectantly at passers-by for bread crumbs, meandering the parking lot—by living in spite of their frigid circumstances.
Today was warm enough to go without a jacket. I don’t know what tomorrow’s forecast will bring, but as for today, I’m just going to enjoy it.
*Dr. Robert Atkins, of the famous Atkins Diet, slipped on an icy New York sidewalk and died of blunt impact injury of the head in 2003.