Friday, April 19, 2024 -
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The layers of winter, this winter

It’s been a real gray spell of gloom and dreariness here in New York. It’s not letting up. Each morning I wake up and I don’t even need to part the curtains to know the weather.

Not a single ray of sunshine passes through my front window curtains. The gentle whoosh of rain is audible. The clean feeling in the air somehow seeps in and is felt despite the almost sealed window. The calm monotony and melancholy are nearly tangible as I finally part the curtains apart, revealing another monochromatic, bare landscape. It is tinged by the mutest of light despite it being the beginning of a new day.

I haven’t even been out, yet the sense of sharp crispness is there as I see people walking the sidewalks, all bundled up, protected by barriers of coats, scarves, gloves and hats from the needling cold.

Night and darkness still come early, the shorter days often dulled by an obscured sun.

So many people hate winter. It can be so cold, depressing, disconnected and disconnecting. Venturing outdoors is often described as “braving winter” or “braving the cold.”

Personally, even wintry days that lack the magic of a pristine and quiet snowfall speak to me. I enjoy the long nights so ripe for contemplation, for cooking and simmering something that might take hours for the flavors to meld, or so perfect an opportunity to re-read a favorite book or re-watch a favorite movie.

Sometimes the wind, it’s so strong, the boughs of the trees move and shiver as the wind whistles by, almost emoting as though it were in conversation, at times sound ing like a human groan or cry or complaint; sometimes even like a soft lullaby. At other times, it’s like the wind is knocking on your window or door, seeking to enter.

Granted, we are blessed in modern times to enjoy the bite of winter but then to be able to come inside for warmth, not needing to depend on the labor of logs for fire (as much as I do love the crackling of a beautiful fireplace). When it’s so cold out, the indoors highlights that we are cocooned and protected, as we might cup our palms around a a piping hot mug of tea that, as we drink it, spreads warmth throughout our body. Such a sense of calm coziness. I remember my joy and sense of feeling understood when I stumbled on the Scandinavian word for it all, expressed in one word: hygge.

While I feel warmed and energized by sunshine and the thriving and color it engenders, each season has its charm and beauty, including winter’s grittier, more smokey and wispy tone.

Sometimes life can feel like the melancholy of winter. Sometimes life can feel like hibernation is home for a time.

This year, right here, right now, this New York city winter has felt so in sync with the emotional terrain of the sadness of the war in Gaza that feels so personal.

Winter’s sepia quality has lent its tinge to the constant news of heartrending deaths of heroic soldiers and of all those who bare the wounds of war.

That’s when my appreciation for this year’s winter shifts. I think of the soldiers. Then I think of the hostages, who have no pause from the frigid wet cold. Some of the soldiers will never come indoors, never return home again. For the hostages, we pray that they still will. But right now, wherever the soldiers or hostages may be, they are exposed to the elements, the relentless cold or rain, aside from everything else that is more intrinsic to their anguish, caught in the nightmare of monstrous captivity or risking their lives in tensely fighting terror. Their coldness must be so difficult.

In contrast, this winter in Israel has never looked so green to me. Israel’s hasn’t had this much blessed winter rain in years. Perhaps decades.

The rivers and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) are overflowing. The horizon is gorgeous as it sparkles in shades of jade and emerald green. The juxtaposition in some of the photos I have seen, the burnt and destroyed homes in the kibbutzim, framed by the lush green growth, is a jarring whirl of confusion, pain, wonder, but also, somehow, the hope that green growth brings with it.

It says: Onward.

It says: We will see better days.

Nature has a mind of its own and stubbornly carries on. Regardless.

With all that has rained down on Israel since Oct. 7 — so much pain and loss, yet in equal measure so much inspiration borne from that pain — the majestic nation of Israel and its depth, resilience and chesed provide a landscape. A mix of both destruction and rebuilding, an intermingling of seasons as the bareness of winter begins to bud. Yet, collectively, wherever we might find our place in the concentric circles of this conflict, whether in its most inner sanctuary or most distant periphery, this continues to be a season when, as a nation, we are all charged with “braving winter.”

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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