Home > Writing > Winter: This New Place I Have Just Discovered

Winter: This New Place I Have Just Discovered

I have always loved summers, the sea, the warmth. Baking in the sun (I have stopped indulging in this pleasure solely because of the dangers of the UV rays). The hot sand under my feet. The smell of hay during the summers I spent in my aunt’s village house. The warm, endless nights. The scents in the air. Everything about the summer.

The heat rarely bothers me. I even tolerate quite well the obscene humidity of Philadelphia. Because I just love the summer. It’s in my blood.

I was born at the peak of the summer. I got married in Las Vegas – in the desert – in the summer. My son was born in the summer.

I need the summer the way I need air. I couldn’t live without knowing that there always will be another summer.

What about the spring and autumn? I always enjoyed both. But they have always been second best. Simply because nothing in my world compares to the summer.

The first warmth of April, and the blooming trees, and the daffodils, and that something in the spring air. For me, the spring has always been just an introduction into the summer.

And then, of course, I couldn’t imagine living without the fall, the gentle sadness of autumn, what we would call SETA in Serbian, that elusive feeling that’s not quite sadness and not all longing, wrapped in the fallen leaves and still warm air. The beauty of that natural decline of nature has always fascinated me and reminded me I was a human subject to the same laws, part of the same cycle, and that was a comforting, liberating thought.

But I’ve never liked the winter. And many times I have used much less gentle words to express this sentiment (I hate, I can’t stand, etc.). The only thing about the winter I have always liked is the first snow of the year and every new snow episode. For about a few hours. While the snow looks clean and sugary. Surreal. Not after or before that.

What puzzles me at the end of the fourth decade of my life is the change in my sentiment towards winter. No, I still don’t like it, certainly not. I don’t like coldness, grayness, bareness. But what puzzles me is my discovery that I need winter. I  might need the grayness and the bareness that come with it.

Maybe this liking has something to do with the Philadelphia winters being different from those I remember back in Serbia. They are less snowy, but more biting, and maybe more gray, more bare, more desolate from the snowy ones in Serbia. Maybe it’s the lack of the fairy-like snow that’s pushing me to this place of utter, complete solemnity, and maybe getting to this very edge is what I like in some crazy way. Maybe not really like it, but just find it exciting. This challenge to survive these biting winters that are rarely adorned with snow. The winters that are taking me to this place of perfect emptiness where emotions tend to grow wild, perfectly undisturbed, like weeds that might eventually turn out to have crimson flowers. Emotions and imagination.  Where sights, emotions, ideas are brutally clear because there is nothing else around them to cloud them.

Maybe what I am trying to say is the same thing my dad used to say to me usually in December: Study hard now because in the spring you won’t be able to do it in the same way. He didn’t offer any further explanation, and I didn’t ask for clarification. But maybe he was just trying to point out what I am discovering right now – that winters offer this place of perfect clarity that we can rarely encounter in any other season, and maybe we should just shut up and take advantage of it and not complain about the coldness, the grayness, the bareness because the coldness, the grayness, the bareness are allowing us to see everything so much more clearly.

  1. denise quinn
    December 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    tanja!!! reading this post brought me back to a winter 9 or 10 years ago while you were living with me. it was a dreary winter, the sun never seemed to shine, and there was ice, ice, ice – all the time, it seemed. your daily 3/4 mile walks to and from the train were so unpleasant – the cold cut right through you, chilling you to the bone, and the icy streets were treacherous! you were sitting on the stool in the kitchen, looking forlorn, and very dramatically stated, “I think this is the end of the world!” Poor Tanja!!! i remember feeling sympathetic, and saying “no, tanja, it’s not the end of the world. it’s just winter in philadelphia!”

    with the passing of the winter solstice, we can now look forward to every day being a bit longer, each night a bit shorter. i feel happy for our custom of lighting up our houses for the holiday season. it brings light into the darkest nights of the year!

    i wish you peace and light. xoxoxo


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