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Why I Have a Distinct and Well-Formed Happiness on Certain Winter Afternoons

It is bright and sunny but so cold. I am, however, well-layered, with three shirts, coat and hat. No gloves, sadly, because my fingers are a little red and a little numb, but I have things to do with my hands that would not allow gloves. For instance, I have a white-paper bag with six hot cinnamon-sugar doughnuts. The bag is a little stained with doughut grease and warm to the touch. I have a styrofoam cup of coffee with four sugars and two creamers and it is getting cold fast. I shouldn't be having coffee; my stomach has been upset recently; however, it is too cold out here for ginger ale. I will just have to persevere. I have a paperback novel set in Italy in which I plan to invest my lunchbreak and my comfort, in hopes of a big emotional windfall.

The book isn't working. I'm too happy to be reading. It is a distinct and well-formed happiness; one borne of sunlight and red-cheeked sting of winter air. There is a garden all around me. The bare trees are displaying the hidden nests of springtime, both squirrel and bird. Bright red berries dot the dark green holly and the birds are feasting on them, trying hard not to starve the winterlong. Behind me, the Cathedral looms and, though I cannot see it in my current position, I feel its presence towering, its cold shadows cast behind, loom of gargoyles and stained glass.

Religion is actually, at its earliest beginnings, a response to the questions posed by death; do we honor the dead, or fear them, what happens afterwards, where exactly does the spirit, so obviously removed, go? There's a lot of books on this subject. Death has become very strange to us, what with the advent of funeral homes and television. When talking to older people, I have found a common childhood memory; they all remember having a corpse in the house when they were very young, as wakes and viewings were held in the home. This just isn't the case anymore. I know people my own age who have never even been to a funeral and even those who have, never really get an opportunity to look at death square in the eye. Of course, we are still young, and necessarily busy with the babies and the jobs and the drinking and the fun.

I don't know. Maybe, on a personal level, you are acqainted with this subject more than I know. Maybe you have a certain insight that I've yet to glimpse. I can only speak in generalities. Death is foreign, generally speaking, even to those who suffer loss. I hope I'm not insulting anyone that feels different. But personally, I am estranged from death 99.5% of the time. And as a result, I remain a little estranged from religion...perhaps.

Except at winter. It is the time of black crows lined on the bare branch, backed by a gray sky. The streams clog with fallen leaves. Undergrowth falls away like morning fog, revealing summer's hidden snakeskin and bone. I found the jawbone of a cow once in a pasture near my grandmother's, each tooth perfect in its place. Long-hollow logs crumble finally into rot under the weight of first snowfall. The songs of insect and bird and frog go silent, and in that silence, if you listen closely, death is near. Even the word near is too weak a word for winter; omnipresent is more like it.

In the silence of winter, death is omnipresent. And that is a reason for living.





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post #434
bio: blaine
perma-link
12/4/2006
15:04

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