Winter is upon us. The holidays are past. We now are left with the aftermath of our festivities. The visits from friends and relatives, the indulgences of food, and booze, and consumeristic hedonism that tends to flow almost as readily as the Christmas Cheer. An end to carols and decorations, we pack away the joyful accoutrements of our lives back into garages and attics, and dust off treadmills, dumbbells, and gym memberships.
The New Year is more than just a change in our calendar. For many of us, it delineates a psychological border between who we were last year, to whom we wish to be next year. We strike bargains with our current selves, in hopes of attaining some form of future self that does not yet exist. We seek a place for ourselves that we have not yet attained, and we begin to plan our mission accordingly.
Winter in Northern Alberta, Canada is long and cold. This December, we saw sustained temperatures below negative forty degrees Celsius. The season can last for up to six months, if it comes early and leaves late, and thus, it is a deep travail for all who live here. It is a war. A psychological and physical battle that grates and grinds upon man and machine alike. The population collectively prays for a short, mild winter, but we know the possibility of a sustained season of snow and ice is always there.
I often think about what a terrible ordeal it must be to fight a war in these conditions. WWII saw winter conflicts in Bastogne, Belgium and the infamously doomed German offensive into Russia, which are legendary stories of man vs. man vs. the elements. When I re-read this piece, written in 2019, I cannot help but think of the Ukrainian and Russian soldiers, battling through the winter months today. God make this conflict end.
“The Winter Wars” touches on the loss of innocence. The transition from childhood playfulness, into the hard, cold world of winter conflict. Physical, psychological, military – not to speak of the spiritual traditions and implications of the season, all move towards a nexus of transition from unknowing to knowing in the solstice of the year’s end. The old thing dies and the new thing begins. The young people are full of anticipation of what their next solar circuit might bring, while their elders count off another cycle and reminisce of the old days, for there are more behind than ahead.
A mixture of regrets and excitement seems to color this time of year. An old battle ended. A new battle to come.
I hope you have had a Merry Christmas, and that the New Year finds you well. It is my hope that this piece brings you some small bit of enjoyment, if not perspective, in this first week of 2023.