Winter approaches.
I can feel the darkness start to creep in
i can feel the weight
the emptiness
the cold.
Winter leaves me with a flat line drawn through my life and my world. The personal struggles of bleak, hopeless days followed by long stretches of night, night that continues indefinitely. Until one day in the distance, a bird might appear in the yard, the discovery that the dry- brown grass is exposed to the air once again, the sun might peek out from behind the dense overcast of winter.
And then it becomes spring.
I yawn and stretch, finally, the heat of the sun on my skin. The colors in the trees and buds explode in the darkness. The air becomes warmer, my breath-lighter, my shoulders – taller. 
I refused to go there again. The cycle just spirals into darkness, heaviness, endless weight.
As the leaves fell to the ground last Fall and the frost began early and permanently with a vengeance I decided to adjust where my thoughts went. Each day, I’d look for something memorable, a unique perspective, something beautiful about winter. I’d find it. I’d record it. I usually had my iphone with me & captured images on it. A pile of snow was not a photograph unless I could find a unique, beautiful pile of snow. 
I started to see winter in a different way. I trained myself to look for beauty in winter. Quite a departure for me, usually the first in line to complain about winter, layers of clothes & cold weather. 
I shared the first photo on facebook with the (slightly sarcastic) title, “winter beautiful winter”.  I don’t recall if I actually rolled my eyes when I posted it, I can only assume I did. Then friends started to comment on my images. It propelled me to post more when I started getting private messages – as the winter steadily became more severe in many parts of the USA – that my photos were helping people get through winter in their part of the country. 
By mid-winter (or what I thought) I couldn’t keep up with my eyes. I had trained my eyes to see beauty – and I couldn’t UN-see everything right in front of my face. I held off posting every image I took – even the most adoring fans would promptly turn off their notifications. It made me a better artist by editing out the hundreds of images that didn’t “WOW” me. I loved when I said ‘WOW’ out loud – even viewed on the small screen of my phone. The ‘WOW” was more an emotive whisper, like a small surprise, not a loud yell. Those were the images that spoke to others, too.
I started to challenge myself to come up with a caption for each photo. It had to be one word. It had to be positive. Sometimes the word just came to me and fit the photo – usually with a hidden meaning.  ‘Winter ‘hard’ winter’ describes both the frozen icicles in the image and the winter as a whole. The icicles were hanging off a branch near my garage in the late afternoon sun. It had been just warm enough that day to create a slight melt. That day at 32 degrees F was the warmest day in several weeks after a record number of days below zero. The ends of the icicles were curved from the unrelenting wind. Hard winter, indeed.
I noticed friends started to post photos or comments of their own with “winter (fill in the blank) winter” as the theme. It’s starting to morph into other ways to look at the world. My friend is travelling & just sent me a message with the caption, ‘airport creative airport’ – and a photo of an art installation en route to her car rental. 
Last Fall, I had no way of knowing that my self-imposed change in attitude about winter would allow me to document one of the worst winters in the history of the USA. A winter where severe temperatures and wind chill closed schools in the upper mid-west for multiple days (unheard of), where the ice on lakes is still 3 feet thick in mid-March. 
I celebrated spring’s arrival (on the calendar at least) by creating a published memory of ‘winter beautiful winter’. I had to borrow the final photograph from my archives – a photograph that spring actually arrived in the past. I’m hopeful that spring will arrive soon again. I’ve seen some robins on the newly exposed lawn – that’s always a good sign.
I celebrate that winter – as beautiful as it is, will be over. 
I celebrate that I survived.






3 thoughts on “survival

  1. I saved every winter memory you posted and these postings that represented your ability to see beauty even in your frozen and bleak surroundings helped me to worry less about my seventy something sister – shoveling and blowing so many feet of snow – day after day – all by herself because her husband was not well and it was so difficult to get anyone else to her house to do it — She needed to be sure she could get out to the doctor or hospital with him if needed. The photos calmed me and I shared them with her and she also kept an eye out for some of the beauty in the middle of the hardships. Thank you for giving this particularly hard winter some soft beauty.

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