Being a nonnative brings the benefit of detachment. I like standing outside in the faint light and cold of early morning. The neighborhood is mostly quiet with only a few lit windows. I can smell dark and cold and decay. I can feel the land waiting.
It’s a fanciful thought. Here is another. We are not coming back from this. We are waiting for white. It’s a kind of finality I can live with because there is hope at the end of it.
We have already had the first few flakes, but they didn’t last more than a few minutes. No one talks about it as waiting. They talk about the first snowfall as confirmation. I think those flakes just confirm the waiting for winter.
I wonder if Minnesotans understand the uniqueness of this kind of waiting. This November cold has a spice now, even though the days mostly continue unseasonably warm. The sky’s blue looks lighter through the trees, leaves torn from their branches except for a few stubborn stragglers. The grass is slowly fading with browning bits. Even the red sumac looks burnt to dark red. Woodpeckers are trying my house siding for food until I tap the window and send them away. The squirrels are sluggish; there are no startled crawls sideways and up into the trees when I appear.
There is even a kind of thinking that returns to me with this season. I can stand with my eyes closed and not feel heat so much as light in this browning landscape. I notice the effect of the lessening of light in winter, because I find myself randomly stopping, tilting my head back, closing my eyes and appreciating the light on my eye lids, on my face.
Such weak sunlight turns powerful against snow. The sun’s force on the snow, breathing the cold air, the deeper blue of the sky. There is such power in winter’s brilliant contrasts: cold, sun, white, blue, even brown. The landscape wakes me up, makes me pay attention.
Maybe more so because of days like today. Maybe, the browning coolness of late fall sets me up to love winter more. Even if it doesn’t, I like the hardiness of thinking that way. It feels, well, Minnesotan.
Margot Storti-Marron is a writer and psychotherapist in Maple Grove.