It isn’t the direction seasonal wonder usually goes in, but it’s quite miraculous to me to walk out into the yard as winter sets in, and feel how everything has changed. A few weeks ago I was barefoot on soft ground, and now I’m in clogs and woolly socks. Air has changed, earth has changed, water has changed – all that was soft is hard. Christina Rosetti was delightfully apt noting that in winter water is like a stone; but it doesn’t seem bleak to me. It seems full of sparkle and strangeness, that just the tilt of the earth’s axis is enough to turn summer into winter.
Imagine our farthest ancestors out of Africa tripping on that rock of winter for the first time. Water like a stone – what sorcery was this? Had the sun, now so low on the horizon, changed its mind about us and gone looking for a better set of creatures to support? Even in the time of the ancient Greeks, Herodotus wrote that the Scythians believed no one could travel in the northern parts of the
continent because the air was full of feathers. He knew it to be snow, but the story reflects the astonishment of a first encounter.
We have only a scrim of snow on the ground as yet and early predictions are for a mild, dry winter; but that depends on an El Niño developing in California. A wet west coast makes a dry midwest. We are assured there’s science behind this, but it sounds like action at a distance, which is to say magic. There’s science behind winter turning water to stone, too. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it can’t seem magical.