January 6, 2014
Tangles of dead vines drape down the side of the oak tree outside of my window. In the summer, the brilliant hunter green leaves try to choke the life out of the thick trunk with their strangle hold. They sway in clumps like wild hair on a banshee. They slither and snake up and down the trunk obscuring my view. Now all that’s left are the vacant strands of wiry twisted wood. Occasional leaves dangle like rotted fruit from the limbs that push through the tangled mass to sip a bit of winter’s sun. Like hungry lovers, they wait to be recognized, to really be seen even in their most vulnerable state. The old leaves flip and dance awkwardly, stiff curled in sides slowly wearing away with each crash against the live wood, or each wayward sway. An arctic breeze whistles through the huddled mass of what’s left after the darkest days have passed.
Soon the days will grow longer. Sap will pulse through the wavy branches and anything dead or lonely will be shrugged away. But that’s not the work of the short piercing days of deep winter. The heart of winter requires one to sit still in the barren landscape of what is, to own the dry cracked hands and chapped lips the wind has provided, and to recognize that the darkness of short days reminds you that the shadow of your soul is just as vital as what shines in the light. It is a time to honor what is brittle and chipped but oh so tenacious. It’s the time of dead things that call out like hollow bells with no tone. They shake, swish, and sigh for those who sit and listen to the breeze.