Winter is by far my favorite season, I think. I love frosty air, smoky breath, bundled bodies and curling up beside warm fires. When I lived in the South, that fair Eden of the Western hemisphere, I dreamed of that mythical snow-day or even the legendary White Christmas. Now, I delight in the quite regular possibility of the fairest of all precipitation, one of the positive effects of being firmly in Yankee New England. Notice my reserve in merely saying “Yankee.” (Barnabas likes to joke — though I think he’s probably serious — that he was twelve before he learned that “damn Yankee” is two words.)
I think part of my love affair with winter stems from my love affair with Christmas. I am deeply in love with Christmas. Raphael noted recently that we in the States actually love Victorian Christmas; I think he could have made more of the importance of the essentially Christian fiction of Dickens in the formation of that image, but his principal thesis is spot-on. Perhaps the kind Dr Bacchus could regale us with the importance of Dickens’ fiction in forming our fantasies of Christmas past?
But I also think that I recognize in winter the geography of my own heart. In Narnia, when first we see it in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the introduction to the series, the whole world is gripped in the spell of the White Witch. “It is always Winter,” the Pevensee children are told by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, “and never Christmas.” What a horrid thing! we all gasp, almost at the same time as Lucy and her siblings.
Critics note the parallels between Lion and the Christian story so often that it is something of a cliché. So, pish-posh on literary cliché! I want to point out that the parallel with every person’s own salvation journey is perhaps just as important. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to read the story once again this year and put flesh on that little riblet.
I want to note that it feels like that in my heart. Always Winter, never Christmas. In college, I knew a wonderful young woman who seemed to love life. Everything fascinated her; everything seemed interpenetrated with a spiritual beauty. I wanted that temperament very badly. We both became interested in Orthodox Christianity at about the same time, and I think I saw in Orthodoxy something of this foi vivant she had. I think that desire to have a love for life is what captured me out of my Romanism. I wanted to be fully human, fully alive, fulfilling St. Irenaeus’ canon of God’s glory.
I find that I still see winter’s grip all around my heart. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve had some of the Witch’s turkish delight, because I find myself liking the unnatural Winter of my heart and wishing it would stay forever. Only, I’d like just a bit more of that turkish delight, please.
One tiny region in the vast wilderness of my heart has been catching glimpses of Christmas coming. Today, the inhabitants of that region received word that Christmas would again be delayed. “Again?” YES. AGAIN. On a day like today, I wish Christmas would hurry up and get here, or leave off with the promises before I waste my life waiting for it.