The most delicious thing in the world has to be the sight of a bum jogging off to the kitchen to make coffee on a cold and frosty morning. If the floor’s cold so much the better, as it means that the wiggle sometimes, if you’re lucky, includes a jiggle. While you’re left nestled under the duvet feeling the warmth of your recently kitchen bound and jiggling beloved you can luxuriate in the knowledge that he will return and that coffee will be included in the upcoming program of events. The coffee may be cold before you get to drink it, but that just proves you manipulated the situation perfectly.
I love the early winter mornings. The first snows with the jiggle of bum heralds a shift in pace for us. A quieter time when visits have to be planned with a phone call before the arrival. When family do come it’s in smaller groups. Everyone chooses the kitchen to sit, drink tea and eat fattening stews. The talk turns to more soulful conversations. Gentle talk of times passed and people missed, hopes for the future, the talk of a people who know that there are darker days coming, but that there will be warmer days to follow. So we laugh softly at jokes, fry bread, and take the time to be grateful. Family gathered together in love and the warmth of a home. Just as I had always dreamed it would be like.
Zah and I treasure those early days. We store them up in our spirits and rejoice in the memory of them. As the years go by we lose some of those who’ve shared our winter tables, but that just makes the memories all the more precious. Winter is the time to remember them fondly and let the tears fall when they were needed. Each year there are a few more lines on our faces and a few more grey hairs. So we took to tradition in response. The greenhouse was always something of a conversation piece for visitors. We had dug down rather than build up. At ground level it was just a pitched glass roof. Looking down you could see trees fanned against walls and benches filled with plants. But there was no door in. The entrance was in fact through the cellar and it meant that we could walk amongst green even in the depth of winter. As long as we kept the roof clear of snow there was enough light to keep fresh herbs and some vegetables growing. There was a fig tree against one wall which was a dreadfully extravagant waste of growing space, but I insisted. There is deep, sensuous pleasure in allowing a truly ripe fig to fall at your touch into the hand almost bursting as it hits your palm. I had learned the secret of it lying in a hammock in the south of France. I didn’t need the hammock just the figs as they were meant to be and someone truly beautiful to share them with. It’s here, amongst the green, that we lay tobacco in those dark days and say prays for the ones who we will miss at our table that year. Tradition. The cornerstone of our lives together, it allows us to find balance and to connect on a deeper level with each other.
On our quiet days when no one’s expected we will go to the greenhouse in the morning to tend to our plants and our souls. We while away the day. A little house work, a little writing, a little eating. Sometimes we’ll go down to the shore and watch the ocean slow down accepting it’s own entropy. Ice forms and breaks apart and the eternal ocean carries it off. As dusk falls we’ll set off rockets that sail into the sky filling it with gold and purple and green stars. Stars that reflect off the water below. Then once they are finished nature’s stars take their place and in the dark water we see them dance as the waves lap at the edge of the ice. Of course we tend to be feeling the cold and so we make our way back to the dark warmth of the house falling into bed to sleep in one another’s arms and dream.
Winter is the time for the blood to slow and for all creatures to accept a gentler pace of living. It’s as natural as the seasons themselves. As natural as breathing and to fight it makes for painful struggles of the mind and body. Winter is, for us at least, the time for gentle loving and the remembering of each other without the world interfering. Some nights we set up a pallet bed in the greenhouse and lie under that glass roof, watching the stars and giving thanks for each other in silent intimacy. There in our winter garden sap can still rise and we can be winter for each other, but also the promise that spring will return as well.