Category Archives: winter

Metaphorical pear, real flowers.

Whatever you do,
do it gently and unhurriedly,
because virtue is not a pear
to be eaten in one bite.

-Saint Seraphim of Sarov

These words from St. Seraphim came into my mind this morning. They comprise one of my favorite quotes of of all time. It’s a strong admonition, but its simplicity and poetry display that gentleness that St. Seraphim was known for. The advice is what I need! I am always hurrying, trying to pack in too many activities, and it is hard to be gentle when one is making multiple messes (visible and invisible) with no time to clean up.

I did a lot of cooking today, and I cleaned up! But before that, I went into the garden to pick a fistful of greens for breakfast. Last night was the coldest yet this winter. But more flowers — and ice crystals — have bloomed since I last looked.


Many of my readers will not see the end of winter for a couple more months,
but I hope you will discover at least a metaphorical flower or two blooming nearby.

Snow and pastels.

As I was making my last sweep through the house to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, my attention was caught by movement outside the kitchen windows, and I delayed my departure five minutes because of birds: doves, finches, a dozen juncos, a titmouse, a chickadee, a pair of Nutall’s woodpeckers — many hanging off the suet feeders to fortify them against the freezing weather coming through.

And this guy, whom I stared at for as long as he perched there, not recognizing him, as he was the biggest, fattest robin I have ever seen.

Then, I loaded myself in the car and off I drove, north to daughter “Pippin’s.’ The first hours were through winter-greened and gentled landscapes.

But now I am in the mountain forest.

I forgot to pack my laptop, so this post may come out a bit strange. When I arrived Pippin was just putting bread dough to rise next to the woodstove, and cats Fred and Duncan were not feeling the winter at all.

Scout helped me unload my car, and we admired icicles together.

This morning I woke in a cozy room with this view out my window:

Dear Readers who have kept me company here during the past year, or who only recently stopped by, I hope that in 2022 you also find comfort and peace. My advice: Try not to stand under large melting icicles.

Happy New Year!

We’ll make fire our business.

This morning Liam and I squeezed in one game of Bananagrams, while his parents were making the rounds of all the rooms to find stray items not to leave behind. The grandchildren also stuffed their backpacks, and found space for last-minute offerings I made: their choice of a matchbox car and a book from my toy area/children’s library.

Liam chose one of the two remaining Sugar Creek Gang paperbacks, and Laddie combed through shelves and baskets looking for the hardcover Velveteen Rabbit, which he and I had enjoyed together last week; he finally did locate it. Brodie debated between The Little Fur Family and another book about a small animal, but after I encouraged him to take the classic, he happily went home with that superior and more traditional story. Clara finally settled on The Fox Jumped Up One Winter’s Night, after which you could hear young and old voices singing the story upstairs and down as she packed it into her bag.

Having watched Clara managing all the stuffies and several baby dolls over the last ten days, I was pretty sure she might like to take one home. I offered her the bear she had named Gingerbread. Their relationship hadn’t started well: she showed him to me twice early on and told me that he was “mean.” Laddie thought she might have had that response because of the placement of his eyes, closer together than other bears we compared him to. A few days ago he and I decided to put a blue ribbon around Gingerbread’s neck, and after that he became a favorite of Clara.

She was overjoyed when I told her she might take him home and keep him.

This afternoon my dear children departed for their home in Colorado, leaving the house strangely quiet and a little sad. I ate lunch and took a walk. The air was crisp and cold, and I began to cheer up right away. But maybe I was wearing the “wrong” shoes, because my feet began to hurt, and I returned home.

Soldier and Joy and the two older kids had been organizing, tidying and cleaning since yesterday, and before they left they got the dishwasher running — and the bathroom floors cleaned! There was nothing urgent for me to do, so I relaxed and caught up on blog-reading, as the furnace blew noisily trying to heat up this barn of a space. The idea of building a fire did cross my mind, and then it doubled back and crossed by again…

But I was beginning to feel the delayed fatigue of the last two weeks, and I didn’t want to pay attention to that thought. Until I read on an unfamiliar blog:

If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.
~Horace Traubel

Ha! Well, okay. I left this frigid computer corner to bring in a few logs, and as I spied the stack of kindling next to the stove, I recalled the time last week when I was surprised to find Liam all by himself in the garage, splitting sticks with the little hatchet, a big pile accumulating in front of him. I will be appreciating his efforts for a while to come.

Now it’s nearly my bedtime, and I have got the house cozied up. I’m thinking of lots of little ways that multitudes of people around me have been making it their business to “build fires.” It might just be sparks of kindness here and there, seemingly timid flames and ineffective; but so easily they can ignite a bonfire that will warm a whole village, and lessen the gloom of winter. Here’s to love!

If peas could talk.

In this era, I keep an eye on the coastal weather forecast more than the local, trying to plan well ahead so as to increase my chances of getting out there to the edge of the Pacific — aiming for several times a month.

Last week about this time I noticed that there was going to be rain nearly every day upcoming, except for one, so I penciled in my outing for Monday. I did notice that it was forecast to be windy, and I researched a little bit about just how 20-24 mph winds feel. I couldn’t remember the stats on what I’d experienced in the past. It didn’t sound too foreboding, so I dressed in layers with a windbreaker, and off I went.

Did I tell you I have been reading The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin? I have the audio as well as the print format. The possibility of sinking into that book makes me look forward to any longer drive to anywhere. I can’t concentrate on a book, lecture, etc. while doing anything else at home; even while driving, I can only attend well while following a familiar route. I make frequent use of the rewind button (Is there another word for that now that there is no actual winding involved?), including at times when I have to concentrate more, as at an intersection, and briefly lose the thread of the story.

The weather at the beach was a blast. The clumps of grass on the dunes were beautiful, the way they waved in the wind. But, “This is not fun,” was the phrase that popped into my mind about three minutes after I reached the water’s edge, where the sand at least was not flying; my head had began to pound, and my eyes were burning, but I pushed against that blast toward the tidepools that I knew would have been exposed.

The wind was helping the waves up the beach, where they were allowed to break, but not to recede. The wind whipped them to make them lie on the sand a few more seconds than was their natural will; I could tell they were not happy about it, because they weren’t lying there quietly. Gusts attacked them over and over,  yanking pieces of foam off their edges and blowing them off. The puffs scattered wildly, like sudden orphans. Their wails couldn’t be heard above those of their abuser. The sun shone brightly.

I had purposely chosen mid-afternoon for my visit, because there was going to be a minus tide, and I’ve noticed those seem to occur mostly in the middle of the night. This week there were three of them that would happen before dark.

But I was beginning to foresee that stumbling around the rocks looking for anemones, in my quickly cooling bare feet, would also not be that much fun. I turned around, and my time on the beach was shorter than usual, but I was glad I had tried the experiment.

I have been reading so many books lately that include elements of great hardship and suffering, it would not feel right if I did not push myself at least a little, and endure some amount of discomfort. Not only do I have my literary characters as examples in this, but I have fellow blogger Mags who is snow-swimming this month, in the seas of Northern Ireland! This kind of effort, when you do it voluntarily, with the knowledge that you can be home and cozy soon afterward, can be exhilarating. The experience of a Soviet labor camp, on the other hand, one doesn’t volunteer for. Just today I read more of The Aviator‘s protagonist Innokenty’s musings on it, years later:

“Well, what kind of description can convey round-the-clock coldness? Or hunger? Any story implies a completed event but there is a dreadful eternity here. You cannot warm up for an hour, or two or three or ten. It is impossible, after all, to accustom oneself to either hunger or cold.”

My garden suffered what may be the worst cold it will have to endure this winter, just two days ago. I know it was several degrees of frost — and this area has had a winter or two in the last decades without even one freeze; it rarely gets down to 20 degrees. By the time that morning’s weather test occurred, I had been doing my own trials of the new greenhouse equipment, necessitating a few emergency visits in my nightgown at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., to adjust the thermostat. So everything was okay in there. And you know, collards get sweeter by suffering frost.

But the next day, it was the wind that hit here, and this morning I found that it had grabbed the 4-foot snow pea vines off their trellises and thrown them to the ground, to be pelted by rain. I won’t expose their humiliation in pictures. The collapsed garden umbrella was torn off its vanes, too, the wind getting hold at the top where the sun had weakened the canvas in the last five years, to make a big hole there for starters.

It looks like we will have a few more days of rain, but no high winds are in the forecast. I am almost always comfortable, having warm clothes and fire and a gas furnace. My life is easy, for sure. If peas could talk, their story would doubtless be different.