Winter’s long, gray shadows reaching across ridged, unbroken snow speak of solitude. Some rest easy with this, while others feel stranded, buried deep within themselves. That day in January, when I found myself (literally) in the midst of paralyzing splendor, being there seemed like adequate recompense for not traveling south for the winter.
Entering that January morning was exhilarating! Our outdoor world was gilded in white. Frosted trees everywhere stood still against a dull sky. Their contrasting black trunks were like flagpoles unfurling a natural wonderland unto a chilled and lethargic populace. A smile crossed my face, and the otherwise dreaded day became something else.
Winter can bring out the blues. I seem to speak from an elderly perspective these days. It’s a rude awakening every January, as I turn another year closer to “just plain old.” I mean no disrespect. We elderly folks are anything but plain. To grow old gracefully is to respect oneself and to share the wealth of your knowledge and insight with others.
Dark clouds can unexpectedly suffocate anyone’s world – times when you come to a place where there’s no more of yourself to give. Unending, gloomy, sad sack days of winter can do that to a person. We feel twinges of pain from old wounds and grasp to make something out of nothing.
Even grandchildren can be used as pawns for our seasonal melodramatics. Loving their company and totally overwhelmed by their exuberance, you can’t help but compare their world of privilege and excess to what your own children did without, and didn’t have the opportunities to participate in.
You swoon in a rush of regrets, as your conscience berates you for the things you should have done, places you should have taken them, things you neglected to teach them, for being a bad example. You cry into your double creamy, high caffeine, mint, almond, mocha cappuccino as you pay the big price tag for an afternoon of shopping with the grandchildren, far beyond anything you ever spent on your own kids.
Rampant consumerism is a malfunction of the integrated circuit that regulates common sense. (Don’t quote me on that.) We’re living in a “me” society. There seems to be a dwindling shortage of virtuous and honest people in high places and in the limelight for the younger generation to proudly emulate.
I know I’ve gloated before about last year’s TV hit “Britain Has Talent,” concerning contestant Susan Boyle, the plain, unworldly, middle-aged lady who shook up a universal audience with a rich, undulating singing voice, that seemed to melt through all cultural and generational barriers. I believe the immediate, explosive reaction of admirers sprang from a yearning tendency toward something genuine, a grasping for stars of sorts, and, for the older generation, a desperation for unfulfilled ideals, for the recovery of so much lost along life’s way.
A stranger to the world, Susan Boyle walked on stage for the first time last April, so much “herself,” dowdy, shy, and unpolished, that faces in her live audience wore smirks and snickers of amusement. As she vibrantly and ardently performed “I Dreamed A Dream” mouths dropped open and eyes popped out. In those unmeasured moments, Susan Boyle became everyone’s heroine, by confidently stepping solo onto a foreboding stage, and spectacularly turning her late mother’s hopes for her into reality.
Susan Boyle gave the masses of people something genuine to grasp onto, a victory for the unknown little guy and gal, a tribute to impossible dreams that can come true, and hope for a just, unified, and all-encompassing society.
Winter has its glorious as well as drab days. Stripped of signs of life, barren bushes and tree limbs are mere extensions of what dwells within their roots. “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads,” Thoreau wrote.
A spring awakening arrives in a burst of color, permeated with heady, earthy scents...a debut not so unlike any other...each one a welcomed surprise!
Janet Burns indulges in the four seasons in Winona County. She can be reached at