jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

In Defense of Winter

Bundled up.  March 2015

Bundled up.
March 2015

My four-year-old daughter said it to me this morning.

“What if this-” she gestured pathetically out the car window, “-is still here in June?”

And I felt for her. She is planning a fifth birthday party (Doc McStuffins theme) for June. Snow past her hips just doesn’t figure into it. And if there is THIS much snow now then June must be practically an eternity, positively a lifetime, away.

We drove past the fields where the horses all live. Their fences are buried beneath the snow and they are sequestered in a tiny loop at the entry to their paddocks that has apparently been shoveled by an exhausted horse owner.

Image of a snow-covered field as seen from the car.

The horses’ fences, almost covered.
March 2015

“Where can the horses go?” she implored.

This I think is how my little one must feel. When we go sledding, she sits on the front of my sled. To return to the top of the hill she lays facedown in the sled gripping the front edge as I yank and pull her back up the hill. In order to go back in the house from playing in the snow she has to slide down the pile of snow until she reaches the porch (which is a three-step climb up from the grass in summer.)

“It’s almost impossible to imagine going to the beach right now, isn’t it?” I replied.

“Why is winter so much longer than summer?” she returned. She looked meaningfully at me.

Cabot's head in silhouette looking out a window almost entirely blocked by icicles.

The view from her window.
March 2015

But I have to admit. I love the seasons. I love the spring. I have grown to love the summer (it’s way better up in the great white north than it was in my sweaty New Jersey childhood), and fall might be my favorite, with a hint of all the best things from the other seasons combined. And winter. I still love winter.

I love how everything looks clean and fresh and polished after snowfall. Even the branches on the trees. All the garbage and the deflated soccer balls and the gopher holes that riddle our yard, they’re hidden under a downy blanket of white that sparkles like opal or pearls and undulates like a four-year-old’s fleshy belly.

View of the yard covered in too much snow.

Can you find the soccer net? Or all those deflated soccer balls?
March 2015

The kids can’t believe that the soccer net is now entirely covered and they have all but given up trying to do anything on the swingset now that the actual seats of the swings are buried under a foot of compacted snow.

But the days, slowly they grow brighter. Today the temperatures are soaring to 30º F. Around the bend comes the spring thaw, flowing rivers of mud, dank, sad grass peering up through soggy patches framed in gray-brown snow. And then the first shoots from forgotten tulips and daffodils will poke through the muck.

We will speed dizzily towards summer, my paddle board, beach days, hermit crabs, sunscreen, perhaps a Doc McStuffins 5th birthday party. Barreling on to the return of school, the beginning of kindergarten, the leaves burning brightly before falling, the kids shivering gleefully at the mere thought of Santa.

The first snowfall.

You see? Without these seasons, then what? It would all slip by. They would learn about this cycle of cold, to warm, to hot, to chilled, then back again to cold, how then? How would they understand life without these dark dead days? That there is something under all that snow. That the birds haven’t really gone, merely gone to sleep, or on a short journey. That with the thaw, out of the gore, comes new life, to burst and sway and swing, before sagging in the noontime heat. Before bursting colorfully and dancing one last time in the breeze and then growing brittle, torn and tossed by gusts of wind in the coming chill.

This is the passage of time. This is the meaning of life. And it is both hidden beneath the snow and highlighted by the snow.

Some things are easy to love. Like Easter egg hunts and fresh spring days where you suddenly notice the birdsong and how it reawakens your prehistoric self when birdsong in the wilderness meant that all was well, that the hard part was over for now.

Or crisp fall days that smell of apple trees and bright blue skies. So easy to love. And of course, ocean breezes and gentle summer sun in the late afternoon when you set the picnic table for dinner, pipe the summer mix out the speakers, pour white wine.

But real magic is in loving even when the loving doesn’t come easy. Even when things are frustrating or redundant or disappointing or cold, cold, cold. There’s such glistening beauty in that deep, deep abiding love that bears all things. There is fire in loving in the face of desolation, in trusting in the thaw.

For now we race to put on our snow pants and boots, our damp mittens and hats, grab our sleds and stomp paths through the snow to the top of the hill. We glide and swoop and sometimes even race screaming, flying through the snow in our search for flight, in our embracing of now.

The great, big, snowy hill.  March 2015

The great, big, snowy hill.
March 2015

15 comments on “In Defense of Winter

  1. Burns the Fire
    March 4, 2015

    Bingo. Boom. This. Oh god, I needed this. From the bowels of a wildly cold winter in Montreal, I thank you.

    • jgroeber
      March 5, 2015

      Ah, Montreal. The mere word makes me shiver. How much snow has covered your yard, I wonder. We will send spring up to you as soon as she arrives here. I promise.

  2. UpChuckingwords
    March 4, 2015

    Mud season will be exceptional 🙂 great post.

    • jgroeber
      March 5, 2015

      Ha! Thank you for popping by and for the kind words.
      Oh, mud season, alas. They brought in a huge truck to plow part of our yard for extra parking and the saddest grass and mud is just barely peeking out next to this seven foot wall of snow. My kids have asked, “Where will all the snow go?”

      • UpChuckingwords
        March 5, 2015

        I think our cars will be sinking. I’m dreading my yard and driveway

        • jgroeber
          March 5, 2015

          Who knows what we’ll find under all that snow… Perhaps all the mittens and gloves we’ve lost? The fourth sled? You car? Ha! Here’s hoping we’ll be able to dry it all out.

  3. Amy Reese
    March 5, 2015

    See, I didn’t experience all the seasons. I lived in Colorado for a few years, and only then, when I was in my twenties, did I get the seasons. Yes, otherwise, there is this feeling of slipping by. I admire your attitude about this, the way that you see the whole picture. Without snow, you can’t very well slid down the hill! That’s a great hill, and this is a beautiful post!

    • jgroeber
      March 5, 2015

      Last year, February got the best of me. Too much snow and bitter cold. But this year it took so long to fall and then came all at once. Wondering if it will disappear the same way? I think I heard on the radio that there are fifteen days until spring? Could it be possible?
      Always love seeing you here!

      • Amy Reese
        March 5, 2015

        Hopefully, it will all melt away soon!

        • jgroeber
          March 5, 2015

          Right? And in the words of Peter Gabriel, “Here comes the flood.” It won’t be pretty, but I bet it will melt fassssst. 😉

  4. Jenn Berney
    March 18, 2015

    I’ve been experiencing this epic East Coast winter vicariously through friends and family. Vicariously is of course totally different than directly and yet…even I am ready for the snow to melt. I feel your daughter’s pain. Meanwhile, spring has descended early in the Pacific Northwest.

    • jgroeber
      March 30, 2015

      Pacific Northwest. Sigh. I was trying to explain it to my kids today from my limited experience. “There’s quite a bit of rain and everything is green. It has to do with the mountains,” was more or less my whole explanation. Pathetic, right?
      And just to update, I took one of my kids sledding today and the conditions were awesome for it- solid ice about a half-a-foot thick with just the tiniest bit of melt on the top. We flew!
      Enjoy your spring flowers… and showers. 😉

  5. Pingback: The Couple at Sunset | jen groeber: mama art

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