Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Memories of Winter
It is winter. A dead time, a sleeping time. I was born on the cusp of winter, perched just within the border of the archer, but close enough that the scorpion’s sting could still be felt.
I remember my toboggan hurtling down suicide hill, rocketing off Frankenstein’s grave to grant precious seconds in flight through the crisp air only to crash down with bone jarring force that left me careening towards a pile of rocks surrounding a telephone pole. Quick thinking, and my passenger leaping to safety, averted the crash. I hurtled along until my toboggan pushed under the fence that bordered the road. I came chest and face first into the chain link mesh. It was a ride that every thirteen year old boy dreams of, and, best yet, I wasn’t going to catch it hot for destroying my toboggan. It came through without a scratch. The chain link pattern on my face faded during the subsequent trips down the hill, and I was wise enough to tell my friend to never say anything about our ride to my parents. For some odd reason the idea of me risking the toboggan would have annoyed them, my mortal danger may have factored in to a lesser extent. I never again managed to hit that sweet spot on Frankenstein’s grave, but it was a heck of a flight.
As I aged winter became a time of shovelling and drudgery, as my father filled my free time with slavish make-work projects that accomplished nothing save damaging my growing body’s cartilage. Then I received a set of cross country skies. The gulf course across the street afforded escape from the house. It was bliss.
These were highlights of winter for me, but always there was something else. Behind my parent’s house was a huge (for a child) wood lot. Mostly hawthorn trees with thorns easily six centimetres long. This was a magical place. This is where I became Pagan, though I had no word for it. In winter there was a stillness. Unlike the constant, angry voices, slammed household items and air of hostility that filled my parent’s house, the woods were quiet. I slept behind the walls of man, but my home was a place of growth, a place of life.
The snow would crunch underfoot as I walked. Once within the trees I could unzip the excessive clothing my mother insisted I wear against a mild chill, let no outsider think she was less than diligent despite the encumbrance it was in reality to be so cocooned. I’d pick my way through the hawthorn bending braches back to make a hole and let the quiet embrace me. There were secret cathedrals where the trees formed a dense wall around an open space that only those who’d mastered the art of moving past the thorns could reach. The whisper of the wind in those branches was the voice of the sylphs that beckoned me to peace. The air within this haven was still the snow smooth save for the tracks of those who came to relish its strange warmth. Racoon, squirrel, fox, various birds and one small boy. And it was warm. During the summer leaves wood fill in reflecting the sun in winter they fell away letting light and warmth into this chapel of the natural world. There, with the wind blocked, that heat would stay. In this haven I would listen. I could feel the earth beneath me. The water in the snow, the air above. My own body’s slow burn of sugars that is life was the fire. I new nothing of circles or tools back then, but I knew completion. In that time I named no god or goddess, but I was theirs more truly than I have ever been in my sophisticated adult life of structure and form. They cradled me, healed what they could and tempered the loneliness that was a constant in my life. The animals were my friends. The rabbits would watch me, and I would speak to them.
As years passed the city came to us and my sanctuary fell to a human suburb. The dump across the street was turned into a gulf course and my friends, the trees and animals were either massacred or left beyond my ability to follow. A remainant of the forest remained; a gully too steep to build on. I would visit it, but it lacked the diversity of life of my old friend. Skiing on the gulf course helped. It gave me distance from my parents, whose war was ever escalating, and opened up the larger world. Still the leafy cathedrals, the wondrous quiet with the wind blowing overhead was gone. This was the time I learned to name the gods. I learned of ritual and structure and realised what I had had and what had been taken from me.
With a driver’s licence came the chance to reclaim a measure of that profound wonder. To this day, I would rather walk in the woods in any season that do most other things. And so now I look to winter again. I have seen fifty two of them. The earth sleeps and some of what now drifts into slumber will not see another spring. The wheel turns and many that are tired will turn with it. Sleep is necessary though. Without the chill we couldn’t appreciate the warmth. Without rest nothing can function. I still walk and ski in the woods. There are others like me because the trails exist and are well used. Though in winter it is still a wonder that as you move away from the main path the silence is there. And winter is renewal. The sun diminishes then grows strong again. Ra defeats the serpent and emerges from the provinces of night as Khepri.
This is the wonder of winter. It is the omega and the alpha. The long sleep clad in white blankets. I tried to catch that in Worlds Apart. In the Yule scene. That sense of glorious renewal that the Yule dawn can bring.
So winter is here. Bank the fire for slow warmth, pull up the white blankets, listen to the winds from your place of shelter, listen for the gods as they sing the world a lullaby, and may you know the peace of a small boy long gone who for a time lay in the arms of his gods and knew it was good.
In keeping with the Winter Solstice Blog Hop rules I’ll be giving away an e-copy of Worlds Apart and an e-copy of Nukekubi. To enter just respond with your e-mail and a statement of which book you would prefer as well as your preferred e-format. If I can accommodate the format I will if I can’t I’ll send a PDF. The winners will be drawn December 14, 2013.
Stephen B. Pearl is a Pagan and a Writer to learn more visit his website at www.stephenpearl.com . His currently available works include.
Tinker’s Plague: A post-apocalyptic, science fiction, medical and political thriller.
Slaves of Love: e-book: A futuristic detective story of love and madness. eISBN: 978-1-9269839-04-2 And
The Hollow Curse: e-book: A centuries spanning tale of love and obsession. eISBN: 978-1-897532-53-9 Available from Club Lighthouse Publishing: www.clublighthousepublishing.com
Nukekubi: A paranormal, detective novel, ISBN 978-0-9867633-6-6 - eISBN. 978-0-9867633-7-3 And
Worlds Apart: A paranormal Romance, ISBN: 978-0-9879726-8-2 eISBN: 978-0-9879726-9-9 Available in paperback and e-book formats from Dark Dragon Publishing: www.darkdragonpublishing.com
War of the Worlds 2030: Dark, Military SF, Romance, eISBN: 9781629290492 ISBN: 9781629290508 Available in paperback and e-book formats from Damnation Books: www.damnationbooks.com
Stories included in anthologies:
Samhain anthology: Short story, Sorrow’s End. Published November 2011. ISBN: 978-0-9846800-0-9. Available in paperback and e-book The Pagan Writers Press: http://paganwriterspress.com
Yule anthology: Short story, Yule Fire: Published January 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9846800-2-3. Available in paperback and e-book from The Pagan Writers Press: http://paganwriterspress.com
Morbid Seraphic: Short Story. Better the Devil You Know. Published April 2012. ISBN 9780615605937 Available in paperback and e-book from Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing: http://www.crushingheartsandblackbutterfly.com/index.html
Hot Shots Volume 3: Short story, Three Parts Love. An erotic tale of love. Published November 2012. ISBN: 978-1-77101-132-7. Available from Breathless Press: http://www.breathlesspress.com/index.php?main_page=product_free_shipping_info&products_id=390&zenid=hcejvl3lc2h6ha0057d21s15n5
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/author/stephenpearl