Wednesday, January 31, 2007

19 January, 2007 Winter Fidelity

Québecois are a philisophical bunch. We knew winter would catch up with us, we just didn't know when. So we just enjoyed the mild weather which lasted until a couple of weeks ago. Now, the shoveled snow on the path to the parking lot is hip-high, and we had a -35F (with wind chill factor) day Wednesday. Things are normal.
Actually, it's not the cold, the ice or the snow that bothers us, it's the length of the winter and the shortness of the days. Ask any Québecois (Kay-beh-kwah), and that's what they say. We all agree that February is the longest month of the year. Yes, we're aware that there are only 28/29 days in that month, but it stands between January, when the return of light begins, and March, when melt-off starts. Okay, the middle of March!
I never appreciated the difference between the seasons when I was growing up. Mainly because in Oklahoma, the difference is not that appreciable. Also, because I enjoyed hurrying out to build a snowman before the meagre snowfall melted. Didn't matter that the doomed snowperson (hope you like that bow to politically correctness) was marred by dead grass sticking out all over his person. Children delight in snow, and only realize it's cold when they can't feel their toes.
The farther north one goes, the shorter the days in winter and the longer it lasts. Spring here is a true celebration. People open windows closed since late October, and the sounds of life--dogs barking, children calling to each other, cars passing, the distant hoot of trains--comes in. We realize that we've forgotten what it means to be connected to a world larger than the one comprised by our homes and offices. The silence of death--for winter is the apparent death of nature--is broken by spring and the accompanying joyous noises of rebirth.
To me, the meaning of Christmas and Easter are spoken loudly in the return of light which begins in late December, and the glorious burst of colour, earthy smells and birdsong which comes with spring. To know that in the depths of darkness, The inextinguishable Light of the World shines, and in spring, that which seemed dead comes to life, is heightened by the witness of nature herself.
If you celebrate Christmas as a mere Winter Festival, and Easter as the time for chocolate, bunnies and flowers, it still expresses the longing to live in glorious light and to believe that life is stronger than death.


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