Boundaries

The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a heavy winter of snow here in the northeast. They were right about the precipitation; wrong about the form. The temperatures have held up so that we reach early January without a decent layer of ice on the pond – I tried stepping on it yesterday, only to crack straight through – and all the snow has fallen again and again as rain.

We have a love-hate relationship with winter here- we hate to shovel and bundle up and have flights and events and driving cancelled, but on the other hand, we live here because it has four seasons, and we love to see the landscape change so radically as it does when the snow covers the ground in fantastic white shapes, quieting this world and revealing others in the uniqueness of the season.

But whether it’s global warming or an off season, we find ourselves with a Jersey winter, cold rains, sleet, ice in the corners, deep mud underfoot. Grays and browns are the colors of spring here, not winter. Winter is all white and black – most winters you can take a picture with black & white film or color film (I know, I am dating myself) and barely see the difference. One nice thing is that many more birds have stuck around at the feeder – a pair of cardinals in January!

But I digress, because rain is the great boundary crosser. The rain insures the mixing of everything, and reminds us that all skin is just a selectively permeable membrane. I was out walking the shore under a set of small granite cliffs, to which trees cling. Water from the rains seeps through the cracks, freezing at night into curtains and stalactites. You see them by the road, too, where the highway cuts through a rock formation and the seams in the rock sprout icicles and sheets.

frozen-rocks.jpg

This whole post comes down to this one observation: where the water passed through a stump, it turned the ice below it brown with stump nutrients. We wouldn’t see this, except for the slowing of time achieved by the freezing: the fluids in us are constantly exchanging, picking up bits of the environment, coloring them, giving them a taste, giving us a flavor, the flavor of everything around us, mixing them all together. The ‘rain’ inside our bodies, as well as in the world, turns us all into soup. We are all a mixed bag.

It’s a soupy world here right now. I wear my boots everywhere. I don’t mind this in April, but it’s January – I want the crisp sounds of ax chops riding on the thick air, the air dense in your throat like mercury, the ski tracks stretching behind you in the virgin snow of a forest fairyland, not this sloppy mud that drags us all down to a common life in the dirt.

In winter, you can pretend that you are separate, the eagle of the north, clean, sere, and aloof. This winter that feeling is denied us, and we wallow in the springtime mud, tied to our biological underpinnings, but without that hope of renewal that April has inherent. In other words, it’s Christmas, not Easter – we want the spiritual feeling of independence that the winter breeds, not the feeling of belonging that belongs with spring.

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