It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.
Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.
Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?
This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.
I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness.
You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look. 👩🏻💻