“In the depth of summer, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible winter.”
I changed the words of Albert Camus (if he actually said this, although I do believe I actually read it in a book first, not on pinterest). I change this quote because he got it wrong. Summer is all well and good, but winter…
This seems an odd time to be writing an ode to winter since we’re supposedly in spring (snow next week though), but it happens that I found a new Adam Gopnik book entitled Winter.
I love Adam Gopnik almost as much as I love feeling nostalgic for winter. I picked up his first book Paris to the Moon years ago, and haven’t looked back since. I frequently trawl The New Yorker website just in case he’s written a new article or posted a new blog post. This dog article is one of my favorites.
I’m only a few pages in, but so far I’m frantically underlining and wishing that winter wasn’t three seasons away. Read this:
“Gray skies and December lights are my idea of secret joy, and if there were a heaven, I would expect it to have a lowering violet-gray sky . . . and white lights on all the trees and the first flakes just falling, and it would always be December 19– the best day of the year, school out, stores open late, Christmas a week away.”
The thesis of the book is that we no longer need fear winter. Modernity has freed us to appreciate the beauty or the sublimity of winter. He uses Caspar David Friedrich’s painting to illustrate the point. I first saw on of Friedrich’s paintings in an art history class in college. The piece mesmerized me. Look.
I showed this painting to my students when we were studying romanticism. They loved it. They came up with tons of interesting back stories and lots and lots of deep meanings for the painting. One of my students wrote down the title of the painting and the painter with the intention of buying a print. He couldn’t quite explain what he loved about it, but then, neither can I.
This love of winter reminds me of Lewis writing about a similar experience in Surprised by Joy when he stumbles on the lines “I heard a voice that cried / Balder the beautiful / Is dead, is dead” and immediately was uplifted into the cold, spare, severe, pale regions of Scandinavia.
I suppose all this could be hereditary. I have very little tolerance for heat or humidity. And some of the happiest times of my life have been spent cozily packed into a house while a storm raged outside. And some of my most reflective times have been spent looking at a snowy landscape. And some of my most triumphant times have been running through snow or shoveling out my car. In what other season do you get such coziness of “fireside enjoyments” and “homeborn happines” with the stark majesty of a world blanketed in snow while also vanquishing the season at last (in Michigan I always felt that I had earned my springtime)?
So…only 259 days until the season returns.