This is the absolutely most barren time of the year. I realized this recently on a walk around my neighborhood as the sun set around me at 4:30. The air has that crispness to it, a kind of fullness that is also utterly empty. The trees are stripped down to their barest architecture. The outrageous cornflower blue sky is broken into tiny pieces, like irregular shards of glass, by the trees’ black branches. And then the shadows gather, so early, the darkness is total, and our faith that the light will return carries us through.
Later, as winter moves in, there will be snow banks, icicles limning roofs and eaves. Somehow, though colder, it’s less empty in those months. That’s it, really: it’s empty right now. There’s an echoing emptiness right now that goes hand in hand with the shortest days. I’m more aware than ever of the way we exist under a big bowl of sky. The sky – which has been, as I mentioned, heartbreaking blue this week – is often striated with these puffy pink clouds, both as the sun comes up, late, and as it goes down, early.
On my walks I keep seeing nests in the bare trees. Nests that must have been there when the trees were full of leaves, but I could never see them. When the trees are stripped to their bones, we see the nests. I couldn’t help thinking about this metaphor in our lives, too. Do we have to let everything extraneous fall away, even things we never thought we could live without, before we know where the true, sturdy nests are? I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ve worked it out yet entirely, but there’s something about those nests of sticks, whose very existence through a windy, rainy fall belies their apparent fragility, that fills me with a strange combination of comfort and yearning. And that I’ve never noticed them before, not in other winters, not in the other seasons, well, that seems not a coincidence. Perhaps I am in search of those nests of my own, as I burrow deeper, curl in on myself, and turn towards the solstice.
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