a carolina winter’s moment

Sometimes I feel a wee bit jealous of those bloggers now posting photos of gorgeous snow-covered landscapes.  The Carolina winter so far is mostly grey, brown, and rust-colored as far as the eye can see, and it seems especially monotonous when I live and work in the same spot, in a hollow in the forest, so that my view from nearly every window is of the thick carpet of dead leaves, now drained of all their bright hues and decomposing beneath the pitiless, cold sky.

Yet when I take the time to do more than glance, whenever I go out into that landscape and experience it not as the wallpaper in front of which my day-to-day takes place, but as a living, breathing reality, oh so three-dimensional and lit up from within with the Mystery, well, then I don’t long for the picturesque views.  They come to greet me enthusiastically, always ready to unfold and wow me, or at the very least give me a mischievous flash of the new beauties of this season, just like the one before and the one before that.

These beauties may be more subtle.  But it may also be easier to ignore them because we’re not really trained to see them.

Starting in childhood, when we explore the seasons, those of us who hardly ever see snow in our bioregions still make paper cut-outs of snowflakes and learn about winter as the season of snow.  When I was 8, for instance, my drawing of a snowfall in a pine forest was featured on television for about 30 seconds by our local weatherman, Guy Sharpe, who made it a habit to display children’s seasonal masterpieces.

Here’s the catch:  I don’t think I’d ever seen a snowfall during the day at that age.  I had only the vaguest idea that snow was wet (and it upset me once I figured it out).  One winter when I was five, the neighborhood kids had managed to make a snowman because all of our fathers dragged wheelbarrows of the stuff over to a centrally-located yard (lucky Jennifer!) and somehow collected enough to manage it.

Well, he would still have been a dwarf if he came to life, and no one had a silk top hat with a lingering trace of magic or spare pieces of coal handy to finish off his look.  Hardly Frosty material, and sadly he melted by 5:00 p.m.

I wish someone would create some children’s stories and popular myths for Southern children, so that we’d see the glories of our own landscape in this dormant season.  There is so much to see:  the myriad dark greens and the golden lights, the beiges that read like soft highlights atop the red clay, the raspberry and plum and strawberry colors of the pansies that nearly make one’s mouth water, the grey-green lichen whose rounded petal-shaped forward edges advance steadily over the black bark, the deepening shadows that make every familiar angle a new discovery, and even the “bare” forest floor, a variegated carpet of browns rising up to meet the glowing blue at the horizon.

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One Response to “a carolina winter’s moment”

  1. It’s funny how snow is associated with winter… Snow has always been a part of the Canadian culture, of course, and while it is deceptively beautiful in photographs, it can be treacherous. And when the winter sets in and the landscape is mostly white, it becomes monotonous until, like you did, you look closer and see beyond the obvious and notice the smudges of purple in a shadow, the variations in the white.

    I’ve never thought of the lack of stories for children in warmer climates during winter…hmmm…maybe YOU should be creating some, Meredith!

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