A Pilgrimage in Cold

I’m writing while travelling, which is a good place for it because you have time to write, and, ostensibly, there are things to write about. (We shall see.)

For the last two weeks of my break I taught a little extracurricular class at a classical school in Durham on performing Shakespeare. I had four girls and on Saturday night they’ll be doing Ophelia’s mad scene at the school’s Arts Festival, and I will be just offstage with my massive Shakespeare book, ready to prompt and grinning when the one playing Laertes bursts out with “to HELL allegiance!” Getting myself home has been a hassle, but being there will be worth it.

Also, of course, the air down south will not be so debilitatingly bitter. It was so cold in Grove City this afternoon that I saw one of the maintenance guys out waiting for a ride in his thick, dark work khaki, deigning to do an undignified little cold-dance.

I have learned things about winter since coming to school up here, things they neglect to tell you in books. I have learned the way snow creaks beneath your feet like old, shifting floorboards, I have learned the way the black top takes on a ghastly spotted grey, and how hands turn an angry, dry pink. I’ve come to love the pain of a good, itching ear-thaw.

I am a deep, soulful lover of spring and so winter here has been a lesson in waiting, but not in waiting only. Crocus-time is quite a ways off, and though I’m already dreaming of it, in the meantime I have a chance to love pilgrimage. A pilgrimage which will continue to lead through that which is uninviting and icy and painfully sharp, through that which I must learn to love,.

So I have the opportunity in wintertime not just to find warmth, but to continue to diligently notice when the sun comes out. When I walk up to campus and back I try not to count my steps, not to hunch my shoulders so harshly against the wind. I try to watch the white out the window when I can, the patches and stretches of it, and remember that spring would be nothing without a long, frozen sleep. That winter is the world’s rest. When the snow melts the grass will be a wonderful green I still fail to comprehend.

But now winter has come in its good time. I shan’t hurry.

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