The weather has been hovering just below freezing this morning. For Minneapolis, this is positively springy. Grey clouds drop snowflakes that dance in the corners of my vision as I walk down the street. By the time I turn my head, I’m too late to catch the show, and they’re already sleeping on the ground. My heart is light. This is nothing like the bitter cold of the past week. Cold wind blasting in the dark every morning will sink your spirits faster than anything else I know. But now the snow pirouettes around before the sun comes up.
This is a different winter than the one we are used to: more a princess dancing on the dining room floor than Old Man Winter with his staff and beard. What brings him to punish us with such howling and blowing? Why is he so angry that he blankets our cars in white, windshield wipers sticking up?
We never stop to pass the time of day — no one even knows the old man’s name. Could it be that the gales are just the tearful shudders of a lonely man? Poor man, widower of Demeter, and to cap it off we shake our fists at him as we walk from place to place, hunched over against the wind. His storms and bluster are grief, not anger. But how to make us understand? us tiny humans who are more concerned about being seven minutes late than about trying to catch snowflakes on our tongue. He looks about him, but all that is in his grasp is icicles, honed sharp; hail, hard and pounding; and clouds, black and foreboding in the night.
Nothing he can give could bring us to love him. So he sends all he has left: beautiful girl, ravishing Persephone. She twirls across the earth dancing lightly, scattering snowflakes wherever she lands. So I, as I walk to school catching snowflakes on my tongue, catch glimpses of her smile in flurries and white clouds overhead, and bow to her as I dance across the crosswalk with her fingertips on my gloves.
But we have too long loved the summer to fall in love with winter. We even recoil from this beautiful sight, throwing sand and dirt on the sidewalks and pulling our scarves tighter against the flakes. Daughter runs to father and cries in his arms. Together they mourn, as the winter winds return and blow with greater force. We have had our chance to love the cold and its royalty, and we have lost it.
And at the last, summer will come. The shimmering ice will melt and the snow will turn black. It’ll all turn to mud and flow down the sewers; flow back to Hades, and with it take the daughter of winter, the princess who dances with fairy feet along 11th street.
Published on 9 March, 2015. Last updated on