Winter

I feel its first introduction when I step out of the store.

That rawness, the air sharp, even as the skies are softened with gray. There are garlands already wrapped around on the posts outside the store. It’s hard to tell if it’s misting or lightly snowing.

I breathe it in, making me think about the factoid about the smell after rain. That humans are more sensitive to the smell, to the bacteria that make it, than sharks are to blood in the water. I’m sure there’s a metaphor there, or quaint symbolism if I think about it for long enough.

But it’s hard for me to dive in deep. My skin has its own rawness to it, its own sharpness. I’m getting sick. Once again.

I have to wonder if I have to welcome every changing season with sickness. I remember the cold that lay me out when summer turned to fall this year. The flu (despite getting the yearly shot) once spring stepped forward, forcing me out of a race I spent all winter trying to train for.

It’s like I have to react violently and viscerally to change. That my whole body has to throw itself into tumult.

The time change has just happened as well, and I feel like I’m an hour delayed on everything.

For years I wrote about the holidays. For four years in a row, I laid out my own rawness about Christmastime.

And, in some ways, it makes sense. Even without the catalyst events, the life thrown into tumult and then built back up again, the holidays bring their own edge.

I’m intrigued by this edge. I still don’t know how the holidays are able to make the darkest time of year a little brighter and a little heavier, simultaneously. I don’t know how Christmas lights can shine sweetly and yet sting. Tens of thousands of words later, and I still can’t get to the bottom of it.

But last year, I had stopped. Last year I didn’t even feel the ping to wax philosophical on Christmas. Perhaps it’s because sometimes things are better left felt and not analyzed.

This is the time of year I have to think about vitamin D supplements. Broad spectrum UV lights. Alarm clocks that mimic sunrise. Anything to counteract the disappearing light.

(And perhaps that’s really the culprit, and the poor Jingle Bell Rock has been the scapegoat for a deficiency in vitamin D and an off-kilter internal clock.)

I’ve been talking up a yoga instructor I know, whose classes I used to take regularly when we were at the same studio. About how she embraces this dark period, as tough as it can be. She holds classes on the winter solstice, reads poetry about the darkness. Expounds that the dark times are part of the ebb and flow, and chasing the light constantly means we’re denying half of the scope of human condition.

It’s funny to think about. After such a rollercoaster year, it is as the days have been getting shorter that things have been feeling a little lighter. A bit more hopeful. Ironically, the darkest parts were confronted during the sunniest days, and I spent them disappearing into the mountains to try to build my soul back up. The days that had the most edge were the ones when the sun was highest in the sky.

Perhaps a nice reminder that the natural world doesn’t bend to your bidding.

I am definitely sick. There is no other way around it.

Whatever cold someone had, I have it now. I muddle through classes, I mainline cough syrup and ibuprofen. I cancel whatever it superfluous. I rest.

“Getting sick is sometimes my body’s only way of getting me to slow down,” I tell a friend, when I explain I won’t be around this weekend, when they remark that I keep getting walloped with disease.

Slowing down. If fall applies easy brakes, winter slams on them — and the whiplash is sometimes pretty severe. Softened perhaps only by the lights, the jingles, that gentle rawness in the air that’s like blood to sharks in the water.

Today, the snow is unambiguously falling. It gathers and dances in the air and makes whirlpools against the ground. But nothing sticks. It’s a trickster of an introduction. Something slick and flighty, something sharply beautiful against the cherished remaining sun.

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