The Smallness of Winter

I wonder what to call it. Winter’s smallness? The paucity of winter? The poverty of winter? I think smallness works. Winter brings with it a kind of smallness, a shrunken quality that, next to the lushness of summer and spring, appears diminished. If summer is rich, winter is poor. If summer feels robust, winter feels skeletal. Winter is bones. Winter is only the essentials. The natural world retreats in winter. It pulls back to within the bone and the branch. It retains only the required, the necessary. Though I often don’t like it, I have to do this too.

This seems especially clear to me after recently having Covid-19. It feels strange to even type that sentence. We were so careful. We were very cautious. But it found me and then my family.

I am more aware of my fragility now. I am more aware of how easily our bodies fail. I am more aware of how easily life changes, doing everything I do not want it to do. I have very little control. There’s a humility in illness, a reliance.

I am full of gratitude for the scientists and health care professionals who brought us vaccines. They likely kept my Covid from becoming severe. I am also full of gratitude to those scientists who developed the treatments which moved me through Covid quickly. While I was very sick for a few days, I did not really suffer like many people have suffered. This awful virus has taken so many from us, one cannot really just be grateful for a “mild” case. We have to acknowledge the suffering so many people have gone through and still go through.

Let these eight days of sickness teach me my own smallness, my reliance on others, the lie of independence.

I took the photograph above in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., along the now-closed Ross Drive, looking down at Rock Creek. November, 2022

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Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

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