I have a sense of nostalgia for winter that comes, mostly, from not having lived through many.
It's not like we have winter here. We have a short wet season, and we have a long dry season, and though I love spring and fall and dry, there is something refreshing and refilling about wet and cold, as though things are working in nature the way they should be, for once. When rains lash the windows and torrent over the roof, when there's frost until ten in the morning even here in East Oakland where weather is not generally something to consider, I feel right.
Winter is in my bones. My first winter of life was the coldest winter in 40 years -- in Wisconsin. My parents bundled me up, stuck me in the back of an old camping backpack, and took me out in it. Then we moved. By the time I turned one I lived in San Francisco, and that was the end of real winter.
As a child, I saw snow maybe three times. One time it flurried on us in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite in the early summer as we rode rental horses across the high meadows. One time we drove and drove forever to Mount Diablo to play in a few, rare inches and build a snowperson. One time, when I was six, we visited New York City for the holidays and went sledding at the park on Riverside Drive. I remember that. Snow was exotic. In the Bay Area, truly cold days -- not just foggy ones -- were rare.
Winter seduces in its serenity and in its starkness. We don't have snow. But when we do have rain, it's real. And sometimes, like today, like yesterday, it's cold. Chilled-to-the-bone cold. Snuggle-up-in-sweaters-and-perch-over-the-heater-vents cold. Warm-from-the-inside-with-brandy cold. When it's like this, feed me warm stew and bring me steaming cups of tea.
In my yard, the plants and trees stand pulled deep inside themselves, in meditation. I sit in front of the computer, my version of hibernation, snacking and drinking warm beverages and listening to recordings of Himalayan bells -- thin and slow and echoing through thin, always-winter air. The nights I'm alone, I pile extra pillows on top of me and sleep in wool socks. When my guy is over, I use him as my furnace, warming myself against him first this side and then that, swaddled in love and blankets.
Yes, I'm a California wimp, I know little about winter. But deep in my subconscious lives my first winter ever, the coldest winter in 40 years. When I was snuggled and wrapped and loved and brought out to face the snow and the bare trees and the sky.