The Slow-Down

By Ian Anderson

I read somewhere that only children and the insane like every variety of weather; it may be more natural to long for sunshine and complain about rain rather than like both, but then again, maybe there’s more to it.

Last month dark clouds covered our town in ice. Most of the leaves had already dropped from our trees, but a few remained and the ice encased them, preserving fall colors that reflected softly in the dull light; bare branches, coated and slick, seemed to grow to twice their size, their shapes enhanced and twisted like forms in a warped mirror.

Roads closed. Schools canceled classes. We stayed inside and the world paused itself. We read books and watched movies. At one point I opened our front door and I felt as though I might be able to reach out and touch the stillness; I thought I might be able to run my fingers through it as it passed, just like stooping to let a stream dance over my hand.

Of course, the stillness did pass. The ice melted, fell, and shattered onto wet lawns and thawing streets, and things accelerated to normal. In fact, the temperate air of the days that followed felt more like spring than December, and a twinge of hope for March flipped my stomach. And yes, most winter days get me to thinking ahead to shoots of green, flowers, and nesting birds. However, there are also times when I appreciate the ice.

I appreciate the slow-down, the forced slow-down, that winter storms produce. I’ve even come to think that’s one reason for winter — we have to be slowed or our bodies and minds won’t stop. And don’t get me wrong, there’s danger in it, too. A fear of power outages looms with each snow or ice-storm. But perhaps that’s what it takes to get us to slow down, to pause in our pursuit of the wind, to refocus and relearn what it means to work and play. Perhaps we have to fear the cold in order to let it still us.

There is another side, too. While the ice teaches slowness, my children teach joy.

Though my first reaction to the cold is to seek out a hot drink and a deep chair, my boys beg to be outside. Last month’s icing was no different; after more than a day of holding them off, we bundled up and headed out. The hard-packed snow and ice fell under our weight, and all of them cheered with every footstep — no, really, every footstep.

The evergreen bushes were the last to lose their loads, and we knocked off shells of leaf-shaped ice that had a sort of fingerprint on the inside. But the greatest fun was throwing large, flat chunks as high as we could to watch them explode on the ground.

We came inside too soon for the boys, but it was long enough to remind me that even a winter’s icing is a reason to be grateful — grateful for a pause to the rush and for joy, even in icy slowness. Some might call that insanity; I’ll stick with childlike.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

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