Fall has been one of my favorite times of year ever since I was a little kid, something that brought about very ironic and mixed emotions as the coming of fall also meant the coming of school. Not that I disliked school. I just liked summer more.
Once that fall breeze began to freeze, a new joy come over me. Winter!
Winter meant holidays and big meals, Christmas and presents, and backyard tackle football in the snow. Since I didn't drive or have other obligations as a youngster, winter was never a hassle. It was just another thing to be enjoyed and played in.
Long afternoons well into the night were spent freezing cold playing football in on of the neighborhood yards. When there wasn't snow, I would still enjoy throwing the ball around and pretending to be all the positions.
I racked up some impressive stats in those me vs. me games.
And when the snow stacked up, we could run around and tackle each other, constantly hating and loving when our boots would come off, sending frigid snow to take its place. After hours outside, I would come in, rosy-faced and plant myself by the fireplace with hot chocolate, or some sort of hot beverage. The warmth rolling over me like a blanket, wrapping me up and half the time, actually putting me into a nap.
Perhaps it crept in, slowly, each year diminishing in winter bliss. Perhaps it was taken away with a drivers license. Maybe it was one of those collateral casualties of high school. Eventually, however it happened, I grew to dislike winter.
Yes, I loved the first snow, and of course any snow day was greatly welcomed. But I lost the magic of playing in that winter wonderland. Where I once saw football greatness and endless opportunities for fun, I only saw grey and cold.
Did I never notice the winter grey as a kid? Or was it actually sunnier? Is this a certifiable case of my outlook creating reality?
This trend continued as I finished my college career, when winter became ... difficult. As a working musician, I traveled in terrible snow and ice storms, just to get to a gig. Or, worse yet, the shows would cancel as the weather deteriorated. And even when it wasn't blizzarding, people would frequently be scarce at the other wintertime shows.
The clouds seemed to never leave to sky until May.
Seasonal affective disorder - I'm pretty sure I had it.
One grey, cold day, I asked myself, 'Do I really hate winter? Or just Cleveland winters?' If I only hated Cleveland winters, there are other places to go. Perhaps if I found a joy in winter elsewhere, I could bring it back into my life in the Ohio winter. Either way, hating 5 months of the year is no way to live life.
So I booked a tour to Jackson, Wyoming for the last two weeks of December. Rocky mountain wintertime winter. The real winter. Snow is measured in tens of feet there. Cold is really cold - zero degrees is a balmy day.
I didn't quite know what to expect as I crawled out of my van, my boot crunching on the snow-covered lot.
Something was odd already.
It was sunny.
The snow was pristine and shimmered everywhere.
The air was so still and dry that it shimmered as well.
I had walked into a snow globe.
Those two weeks took me outside in 20 below weather, traipsing around in snowshoes in knee deep snow, going miles and miles into the stillness of that marshmallow world.
Standing in an enclosure of beautiful, perfect pine trees, each one an image of the best Christmas tree in any movie, I found that bliss again.
Winter was not the enemy. It was spellbinding.
Yes, everything is spellbinding when in the shadow of a mountain, or alone in a sub-alpine forest, when watching the moose and elk forage, when the bison swing their mighty heads side to side to clear the snow.
But that bliss is more than that.
You see, bliss is not dependent on any external circumstance. Bliss is an inner state.
Bliss is a state where the curiosity of our childhood shines through, where the newness of each minute could bring infinite possibilities.
Bliss is everywhere. It is anywhere.
So I brought it back to Ohio.
Which is not bliss's natural habitat.
But it survives.
And waits with its face pressed against the windowpane in unbridled excitement for whatever winter holds.