Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072
Church School: 10:45 AM
In Praise of Winter (Sort Of)
Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, February 13, 2011
It’s winter in
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour,
All at five below.
Oh, how I love
When the snow’s up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful.
So I guess I’ll hang around,
I could never leave
Because I’m frozen to the ground!
It has been easy to complain about this winter in particular; this winter, as one writer has described it: “The winter from hell. Who knew hell was white and cold instead of red and fiery hot—or is this just hell freezing over? The winter of an endless cycle of nor-easters every five days or so, with nice little below-zero breaks. The winter when we’re wondering if the total snowfall will rise higher than Shaquille O’Neal’s head.”
It is easy to complain about temperatures that seem continually sub-zero, or thereabouts. About the inconvenience of trudging through snow and ice, or driving over snow and ice; about backbreaking shoveling, and skyrocketing plowing bills, and collapsing roofs (for this winter has brought more than inconvenience; it has brought downright danger, in some quarters—no laughing matter, there).
But I rise this morning (after slipping on the ice, and falling in the snow, at least figuratively; I have been actually lucky on that count this year—so far)—I rise today in praise of winter. “I come to praise winter, not to bury it,” as a dyslexic Mark Antony might have said: to praise winter, before it buries us. For there, if we look hard enough, numerous are reasons to bless this most difficult and arduous of nature’s seasons.
David Letterman-like, I have assembled my own “Top Ten” lists for this winter, drawn from various sources. Here is my list of the “Ten Best Things About Winter”.
# 1—There aren’t any mosquitoes.
# 2—Frozen mud is much cleaner than unfrozen mud.
# 3—Under 20 degrees justifies hot chocolate, whatever your waistline.
# 4—Mow the lawn? What lawn?
#5—You can tell without checking the box if the mailman has been by.
# 6—Junk in your neighbor’s back yard looks much nice under snow.
# 7—Rake the rest of the leaves? What leaves?
# 8—Snowed-on dog smells much better than rained-on dog.
# 9—Your neighbor just shoveled off your car by mistake!
# 10—Rude gestures are not nearly as effective in mittens.
There are deeper reasons to love winter, too—other ways it blesses us:
Gazing at the Milky Way on a winter’s night… The red sky as the sun rises early on a winter morning… The exhilarating chill as you open the front door to retrieve the morning newspaper (if you can find the morning newspaper).
Curling up on the couch with a good book and a roaring fire…
Soup simmering on the stove… Bread baking in the oven… The smells of roasting and baking pervading the house… Winter is the best season for cooking, perhaps.
Longer nights for longer resting… Flannel sheets, and the quilt drawn tight around you…
The peace not past our understanding falls,
Like light upon the soft white table cloth,
At winter supper warm between four walls,
A thing too simple to be tried as truth.
“Let us therefore praise winter,” Greta Crosby reminds us, “rich in beauty, challenge, and pregnant negativities.” “Pregnant negativities”: that’s one of those wonderful phrases that forces us to think; that forces us to delve deeper, and engage; we can’t just read it and nod our heads; we have to stop and ponder it—What does it mean?
The beauty of winter would seem self-evident. At least until February, when the snow starts to get dirty, and the slush sets it, and the dross and drear underneath starts to get uncovered, winter is a beautiful season indeed; as lovely as any other; and few beauties compare to the glint of icicles in the branches, or the wide expanse of pure white snow. Even in its desolation, winter casts a certain beauty.
The challenge of winter is also obvious. Winter in
Winter reminds us not to take things for granted, that getting from Point A to Point B in our lives—wherever we’re going—is not something to be taken lightly (which we might well forget, if our lives were all spring and summer). Winter puts us back in touch with these bodies of ours, too—these sometimes old, aching, creaking, dreadfully out-of-shape (some of us) bodies of ours. It puts us in touch with our homes: there are ice dams to fend off, and snow to shovel from roofs and porches, and pipes to watch, and oil tanks to fill—and nothing to be taken for granted.
And what of winter’s “pregnant negativities”? What are the gifts of a wintry spirituality?
I have seen the barren maple tree in January:
Winter reminds us that we are like that maple tree in certain seasons of our
may we, too, we go inward--
to find our own image in thto find our own image in the flickering of a candle flame.