Feeling socially overwhelmed during the holidays is as certain for me as a stomachache induced by a chocolate breakfast on Christmas morning.
Have you had the misfortune of listening to the radio lately? Yikes, I actually start to grit my teeth when some pop star’s banal rendition of ”All I Want For Christmas” attacks my ears. Between the terrible Christmas songs and the fanatical list-making going on in my head, I have spent the last two weeks walking around totally oblivious to the best thing about the belly of winter.
If winter were to have a quintessential sound, it would be silence.
We are in the thick of it. The days are so short that any outdoor adventure will have you facing night on one side or the other. A week ago, I found myself walking back to the car by headlamp. Looking out into the blankets of surface hoar illuminated by my light brought back a pang of nostalgia for the winter. I was looking straight into the face of something that I’ve been totally missing lately: quiet. With a friend waiting at the car and the temps far below a comfortable degree, I hustled on but was left with a thirst for more.
A few days later, drunk on caffeine, I decided I would take off for an afternoon mission to the Ghost area. After randomly driving around on the back roads of Morley, somehow reasoning that I’d intuitively know how to navigate through the maze of unmarked gravel roads, I retreated back to the highway to take the dummy’s approach through Waiparous. Several hours of daylight lost, the Black Hippopotamus (my car) faithfully delivered me to the first river crossing. Icy and threateningly deep, I worried that the Hippo’s innards would freeze, leaving the two of us to shiver the night through.
So after weighing my options, I left him on the bank and with a pat on the nose I was off on my own. The moon met me at the top of the climb, and the stillness, even with the bucking prairie wind blasting snow in my face, was one I will not forget.
The moral to this one? Give yourself a present this Christmas: an hour, a minute, a breath, out in the winter night. And if, amongst the present wrapping and wine drinking, it slips your mind, here’s a poem that always reminds me of what it’s like to be in the mountains alone.
The Island, by AA Milne
If I had a ship,
I’d sail my ship,
I’d sail my ship
Through the Eastern seas;
Down to a beach where the slow waves thunder –
The green curls over and the white falls under –
Boom! Boom! Boom!
On the sun-bright sand.
Then I’d leave my ship and I’d land,
And climb the steep white sand,
And climb to the trees,
The six dark trees,
The coco-nut trees on the cliff’s green crown –
Hand and knees
To the coco-nut trees,
Face to the cliff as the stones patter down,
Up, up, up, staggering, stumbling,
Round the corner where the rock is crumbling,
Round this shoulder,
Over this boulder,
Up to the top where the six trees stand…
And there would I rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of the sand below,
And the green waves curling slow,
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky…
And I’d say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea:
There’s nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me.
Happy winter! May it be a time of peace and reflection for you.