Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The elderly are said to be in the winter of their lives, and winter is synonymous with the end of life. That does not make winter the grim reaper. Rather it is a time of reflection, a hallmark of those for whom childhood is long gone and the novelty of being an adult has been worn away for years. The calendar provides a vantage point.

Winter is a potent force, not just in terms of the weather it brings, but also because of the emotional backdrop it creates, and its place in the cycle of our lives. I am in my fiftieth winter, yet the season is still primarily defined by my relation to it as a child. Any snowfall which brings traffic to a standstill and closes schools takes me back to a singular excursion somewhere back in the single digit years of my youth. On that day school was closed due to the weather, but that detail could be wrong, since I recall my father was home, so it was either a Saturday or he stayed home from work that day. But weekday or weekend, it doesn‚t matter; what resonates for me is a six-block walk I took with my father from our house to the post office. He bought me stamps for my recently started stamp collection. For me this was a leap beyond the wild assortment of cancelled stamps from around the world, which I’d get by the bagful from Grant’s or Woolworth’s at the nearby shopping plaza.

I have no specific memory of the walk itself, though I can retrace the route in my mind. I know what we set out to do and the sense memory of that walk remains, the feeling of being warm and secure, walking on snow covered sidewalks and streets. It was unusual to be going for a walk with my father during a non-vacation day and so close to home. The bulky feeling of being bundled for the walk informs any winter bundling I’ve done since. I never reminisced about that walk with him, nor thought about it much. It appeared to me about a decade ago, an old memory now returned to the forefront. I have become even more aware of that memory in the past seven and a half years.

My father died in the summer of 1997. For me, his final months resembled the patterns of settling in for winter, a turning inward and slowing down. In the end his breath grew more and more shallow until there was just the quiet, like that of a deep blanket of snow after a blizzard.

As January gives way to February, there are undeniable emotional powers that accompany the season. The blanket of white ties the landscape into a continuous and undulating whole. The snow is a backdrop for shadows, as the curve of hillsides and the foundations of houses all are connected. While snow-covered land creates quiet and the season sends us indoors, thoughts and feelings turn inward.

We need to demarcate the passage of time. It’s how we take stock of ourselves, seeing where we are in relation to our plans and expectations. I’m in southern California as I write this, a place where winter expresses itself as rain. It would be easy to live in a climate where there are no freezing temperatures and snow. But I would still define the shape of the year by winter as I knew it from my childhood. My response to winter is a part of who I am.

- David Greenberger


Blogger Judith Shapiro said...

"Snow" is lovely.

I am so happy to have found your work after so many years. Duplex Planet is mentioned at Changing Aging: and I will happily be including a link to "Snow" on my blog, Remembering Matters:

9:54 PM  

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