O, Wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? – Percy Shelley
I’ve always loved the winter. It’s cold and stark and you can, to quote Wyeth, feel the bone structure of the landscape. Growing up in Southern California, it meant that the temperatures dropped from 78 degrees to 76 and people, well, they just got pissed off and cranky about the whole thing. Then I moved to Alaska and felt and lived through several brutal winters, where sounds echoed and carried across miles, where the wind felt like it was breaking your jaw and ice formed on your eyelashes. And I loved it, because it made you feel ALIVE, it challenged the very notion of an easy journey. Part of loving winter was the knowledge that there would be a warm home waiting for me somewhere, with love spilling out aromatically from the kitchens and stoves burning off the frozen edges where you’ve iced over, hot coffee and laughter bringing your cheeks to life as you grin in good company.
“Love takes a taxi, a young man drives/
As soon as he sees her, hope fills his eyes/
But tears follow after, at the end of the ride/
cause he might never see her again.” – The Avett Brothers
And then one winter you find yourself alone, truly alone. When you come home, the house is empty and kind of cold, the lights are off, and if you want to smell delicious cooking you need to get into the kitchen and roll up your sleeves. It’s hard to muster up the effort to fire up the stove until you realize your kids probably want food at some point. And like the journey to get comfortable in your own skin, you need to turn within and start with turning on the lights and breaking out your old & tired cooking utensils. Mince up some garlic. Chop an onion. Make some food that taunts the senses, fire up music a little too loudly and crack a beer. People will find your kitchen, they’ll wander over to your place and next thing you know you’re in good company again.
“Love has been waiting, patient and kind/
Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign/
That the one that she cares for, who’s out of his mind/
Will make it back safe to her arms” – The Avett Brothers
And so it was in the dark of this winter that I began to see signs of the spring to come. Across baking and cooking and throwing sawdust out from woodworking projects, writing essays and letters and drawing endless amounts of ideas as they scrolled across my mental canvasses, across all of these mediums, I began to see hope again. I looked up. I wrote, often, on this site and others about the concept of hope and optimism, but I’m human too, and too often the words don’t feel as authentic as they should. Then, like a sunrise, I started to see changes; gradual, hopeful changes happening around me, to those I hold dearest. Three of my closest friends turned some powerful corners in their relationships with their significant others, corners that will reinforce the foundations they built so long ago. I smile from the sidelines as I watch them working together, each willing to put in those hard hours together to move forward, proud of their efforts and loving them as positively and powerfully as I can. Even the Outlaw Trucker began to engage someone in a conversation, the first time in YEARS that I’ve seen a genuine smile emerge across his normally stoic face when the subject of the fairer sex comes up. I’m hopeful for my friend. He deserves love; he’s a good and loyal man with a true heart. The sun is peeking around corners, and while I don’t even have any proof of what awaits, it’s something I’ve been feeling in my bones for a little while now. Bittersweet smiles now awaken me in the dark hours of the morning, greeting the day and coffee pot with a lopsided grin as opposed to the unexplained tears and tired bones that another night of three hours of sleep had granted over months past.
“Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door/
Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor/
He says ‘Love, I’m sorry’, and she says, ‘What for?/
I’m yours and that’s it, Whatever/
I should not have been gone for so long/
I’m yours and that’s it, forever.’/
You’re mine and that’s it, forever.” – The Avett Brothers
People everywhere in my world are beginning to stir towards better places. I can’t help but be affected by the light that they radiate. I can only hope to be a source of light and laughter for others. My good friend Jeremy recently had me watch this short clip from the comedian Michael Jr. that talks about his role on stage as he sees it. It was powerful and spoke to me on so many levels, with this line reverberating in my soul:
“Now, I’m not looking to take. I’m looking for the opportunity to give. This changed everything.”….how powerful. What a mantra. Looking towards spring, towards the future, towards my friends, and I can’t help but smile at the thought, even when in pain. The lyrics of the Avett Brothers song “The Ballad Of Love & Hate” were ringing in my ears just last night, as The Outlaw and I were trying to watch a comedy, bellies full of chicken wings and contented, mending souls. A cold night in February, in a warm house with good company. My heart still yearns, but the ache…while still there, it has dulled slightly from its piercing and relentless presence in my life. Unconditional love has taken its place, even from a distance, and not knowing doesn’t torment my soul the way it once did. Spring, it beckons.
This is where my mind was lazily drifting, when, in the crisp and cold dark of night, my phone began to ring. Looking down in disbelief at the caller ID, I hesitated for the briefest of moments, then picked up and heard a sound so long removed, it’s very sweet timbre made my heart stall in time…
“Hi there, Uli.”
Watch ’em here:
Avett Brothers: The Ballad of Love and Hate
Michael Jr.: Be The Punchline