A holiday toast to a winter’s night

“Wind at your window, screams while you sleep. You live near your fire as the winter blows by.” — Steve Forbert

As the metal storm door clicked shut behind me, I almost immediately sensed the mildness of the air meeting my face — warm for a winter’s evening. The wind was dead or at least fast asleep.

Soft glowing light shone through the windows of the living room, diffused by curtains that hung like translucent gossamer, out into the snow where it flowed and pooled around the trunks of the maple trees.

The silence was profound and powerful.

I soaked it up like a deep breath of fresh air.

The only creatures stirring were a couple of flying squirrels that leapt from one of the bird feeders into the maple’s waiting branches. There they ran in a quick swirl, one after the other, up and around the trunk of the tree.

They, too, were silent, except for the scuffing, scratchy sound of their feet on the limbs. They seemed to disappear like chimney smoke, swirling higher and higher into the tree and then gone.

Peaceful nights like this make me want to lie in the snow in a sleeping bag. I could look up at the stars, let the snow envelop me and sleep the deepest wintry sleep.

I drove past the cemetery a couple of nights back. From the road, I could look past the wrought-iron fence to see bare oaks and maples standing tall.

I wondered who or what the fence was supposed to be keeping in or out.

The entry gates were swung wide open in the darkness, and the roads were plowed clean. Anyone or anything that wanted to walk in or out would have no problem passing the cold iron “barrier.”

On a couple of the snow-covered gravestones, blue, red, yellow, and green Christmas lights were lit. From the icy road I was traveling, the burial ground for thousands of townsfolk looked serene.

In the cool blue of the night, I wondered what this street, this neighborhood, this night “looked like” to those inside. Did they have any knowledge of the goings-on anymore of us remaining here, struggling through our daily lives?

Asleep under the insulating blankets of soft, white snow, I got the feeling they were comfortable, tucked in and cared for under the outstretched arms of the hardwood trees and stone statuettes.

When I was a kid riding in our car, if we passed a cemetery, my dad would ask us kids, “Do you know how many people are dead in there?”

After one of us asked, “How many?,” he’d say, “All of ’em.”

Now he’s one of those folks gone to sleep forever, and I’m asking his same question to our girls when we drive by in the car.

Like my dad, I will continue to ask, no matter how many times I’ve asked before — despite the eye rolls, sighs, or grumbles.

Maybe someday, the girls will ask their kids the same thing.

Only a few hours after the sweet moments of silent night I experienced in the yard, the snow had begun to fall. It was a wet snow, thrown against the trees by strengthening winds that spattered it up and down the tree trunks and clung to the hanging branches of the spruces and the balsam firs.

The yard now looked like a snow globe that somebody shook hard, a holiday card image missing only the red wreath ribbon. This was the type of snow that makes pretty pictures.


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