Monday, January 21, 2008

I need to buy some Vitamin D

So it is winter here in Lexington Kentucky. The ground is icy and the air is frigid. I am a Canadian and people say silly things like, "But you like the cold!" Stupid things really. Closer truth is that I have survived winter, not come to peace with it.

Calgary winter is long. Boreal green disappears with the first frost, not uncommonly arriving in late August ... (Steve heroically rescues the tomatos which are still green and I ripen them in bags in the food cellar) ... and it is fully June before one can safely bank on frost free nights - for six weeks. Zone 2. Six week growing season. Every vegetable plant in the garden started as a half grown bedding plant from the greenhouse.

When winter comes in Calgary, I disappear into sadness. Sometimes I curl up on the floor in the dust flecked square of sunlight dull through the window, and as it moves across the room I move too. The natural gas furnace blows lots of heat but no vitamins, no joy. The sunshine brings no heat but it feels good on my face.

When I am desperate to get away from artificial light and artificial heat I bundle up and walk the generous paths through a ravine that starts in a gully a half block away. There are sundogs - three suns - in the sky, one mirrored sun on either side of the usual flaming celestial body. The backdrop sky is soft winter blue with whisps of mare's tale. Mountains stand majestic gray like shadows painted on the horizon, the ragged peaks white with snow and ice. And I feel unbelievably miserable. Without energy. Sad and hopeless. Alone.

I am the only living thing visible on the ragged edged path. The frozen scrub around me as I lumber along is thigh high - it doesn't grow higher than that in our short summers. Berries from the summer hopelessly hang on it like tiny black shriveled gonads. I hate them hanging there so burned by the cold. I hate everything.

So I reach with my gloved hand and scrape along the branch, ripping the old berries off into my mitt. I throw them to the ground. I crush them under my heavy boot. I turn to walk away, stop.

There at my feet, mashed against the frozen lumps of gravel is a sprawl of luminous lime green. I stare. Like a florescent crayon melted onto dull old concrete, it defies and condemns fact with imagination. It is wonderous.

I break off a small branch of berries, gently this time, and canter home, somehow lightened in my step.

Now, my journal has a black cover. I chose it for this winter. Equally dark the inside ... words of lament and yes, maybe self pity. I tape the small twig with shrivelled berries to the front of it, celebrating what might be. I feel hope.

Two days later, taking up my journal, I dismay to find the berries have broken off and are lost in the bottomless flotsom of our winter home. Only the twig remains, stuck miserably to my gloomy journal with matte scotch tape curled up at the edges.

Showing Rachel I say, "See. This is winter. Everything is lost in winter." She looks at me. "You're wrong," she says. "This isn't about winter. This just shows you that you have to learn to secure the important things."


Vincent said...

"O, wind, if winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
(P. B. Shelley)

Karen said...

I think you're being a little bit negative - I'm feeling the need to defend Calgary. We're actually zone 3 and the average number of frost free days is 90 - pathetic, but longer than six weeks. You know, the days are actually getting longer from December 22 on. Maybe we need to get you a graph or a chart for your fridge!

JohnDeere said...

marilyn-- i think you miss canada! ;-) jd

Marilyn said...

sheeesh. And Karen - quit trying to jolly me into a good mood. Evidently YOUR zone may be 3 over there in the ritzy neighborhood, but you gotta know, Scanlon Bay was a firm zone 2. Perception is reality~!

Karen said...

I'm sorry for trying to jolly you into a good mood. It's just that you're usually so happy I hate to see you wallowing. Spring IS on the way - it's only about 8 weeks now. Do you think you can make it?