A short story by Author John Williams
Today is an unusually warm January day with winds blowing at a pace greater than normal. Large puffy white clouds are also moving at a speed that is quicker than they have been for a while. The pine and spruce trees that border my home are flexing this way and that as the wind whistles through the branches. The broom grass that occupies the nearby fields is waving in the breeze, while the nearby pond also is riffled by the ever persistent wind. As I’m observing the movement of nature the rain has appeared from nowhere. It means change is in the air. It means winter is just beyond the hills. It also means the balmy days of spring are not here yet. I’ve never considered myself as living in the north; I’ve always deemed people from Maine or North Dakota as northerners but my home state does border Canada so I guess being from the north does apply. If you’re from the latitudes where cold persists you’re probably tuned to the effects of a north wind and even relish at what it brings. If you’re from the south you may be missing out on great moments that make living in the north special.
The leaves have disappeared from their high loft and have moved to a place of resting. What little sun that penetrates the grayness above now filters through the exposed branches. It’s winter and the comfort of a warm gentle breeze has given way to a more robust feel. The time has passed of the leaves dancing their way across a blue sunlit sky to the grass covered earth below, its winter and now a time to reequip for the days of spring when stored energy is released again. It’s a time of wonder, a time of what could have been, or maybe what will be. The feel of a warm fire with flames flickering above a burning log can be felt, best, on a cold winter day. An embrace by a loved one seems to mean more. Winter is here, as it comes every year, but it’s a time of reflection and a time to readjust for the days ahead. Winter encompasses what has been but also what will be.
Change has occurred and after the howling winds that blew through the night, the temperature has plummeted and a light snow is starting to fall. It’s the kind of change that makes a person want to be a part of what’s happening in nature. Animals sense this and move with a livelier gate of activity. Horses run in open fields, dogs come alive with motion and a person gets an euphoric feeling from what’s around him. It’s still in the 20’s so the cold can be kept at bay. Yet, too much clothing can bog one down and limit movement. Yesterday and today are different but both can be enjoyed. We will see what tomorrow brings.
A light snow has covered the creation its whiteness is more than my eyes can take in. I squint against the rays of winter. The grayness has given way to a sun drenched canopy above. It’s a moment to be relished. Moments in time is fleeting, but each of our days revealing what nature shows us. The green pine needles seem greener when peeking from under a blanket of white snow. The red leaves shimmer when exposed by a breeze. The frozen flakes of moisture from the heavens will linger to replenish the thirst of the earth. As the natural world has reason, we also should look at each day as wisdom for tomorrow. Yesterday has passed like autumn’s give way to winter. The leaves have fallen but even then they’re a protection and nourishment for the growth of tomorrows. Today has been a blur to what could have been and shields what the future may have.
The cold has settled in today. It’s winter. A cappuccino, latte, just a cup of coffee, or maybe some hot tea would start this day off just right. It’s especially good shared with the love of your life. If that is not possible, family or friends warms the soul when the temperature drops as much as it has today. The week is winding down but so has the thermometer. The negative side of the scale is dominating the readings. If you have seen more than the usual amount of vapor rising from the smoke stacks of home or business on a super cold morning then you’re in tune with this type of a winter day. The air becomes still. The earth becomes silent. Frozen particles appear in the air from nothing. A winter day like today is not to be taken lightly. Wrong turns today can be deadly, but it brings an awareness of your surroundings that have more meaning. Its winter: it’s cold, but it’s also wonderful.
The temperature has dropped even more. The animals have moved to more sheltered locations. The stove is tended to with more regularity; its warmth feels especially good today. It’s not an outside day, but a day to wrap yourself in something warm and plan for days when the temperature rises and the fields turn green. It’s a day to look back and note the good moments you have had. The flames flicker and the heat feels good. I pour another cup of coffee and break out the paper and pencil. Letters are welcomed by about anyone on a cold winter day. I set to write but my eyes seem heavy. Maybe a little later I think, but I’m like most people and the later seems to slip away. Tomorrow will be a better my mind tells me as I drift off into a dream world of the past and futures.
I’m woken to the sound of wind whistling through the evergreens while wrapped in my down blanket. The sun is peeking just above the hills and turning the clouds that have appeared a crimson red. Change is in the air. The cold is noticed as I slip from underneath my cover to check my stove for any leftover embers. The wind is from the south so relief is beyond the horizon, but winter is still here. A day of plus degrees will feel wonderful. Winter is all about the next day. Today is good, but tomorrow will be better. We always hope for better but today’s needs should be addressed first. Each day is better than the last, as it should be. That means spring is going to be beyond comprehension. It’s cold. It’s wonderful. It's winter.
If you are looking for the author, John Williams, you won't find him in the office writing. He may be trekking a nearby hiking trail or floating in his canoe or kayak on one of the beautiful lakes that surround his Appalachian foothills home. If not there, jump on your bicycle and find a nearby trail, he may be wrapped around a tree somewhere and in need of your help. Teddi, his wife of 50 years, will tell you to take your time. Four children, all grown, made a break for it and put roots in different parts of our beautiful country. The seven grandkids don't know what he looks like. Go to the nearest locally owned coffee shop and just by chance he may be there. He will be the only one with a pencil and paper.
Worth Going Back: A Memoir of Alaska by John Williams