I grew up without winter. For the most part, at least.
Winters in central Texas were brown and chilly, but you never knew when it might hit eighty degrees. In December, we never bothered to ask for a white Christmas. Instead, I would secretly pray that it wouldn’t be so warm we’d need the air conditioner. Even at eight years old, I found air conditioning very depressing.
As a young girl I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books repeatedly. But I read The Long Winter more than any other. It isn’t a pretty story, far from it, but something about the extreme cold and snow fed my soul. Even then.
It’s a truism that home is where you come from. Home is where you began.
I disagree. I think home is the place we’re headed. Home is the destination.
Here in my little southern corner of Pennsylvania, winter’s grip is fierce. Not Midwestern or New England fierce, to be sure, but strong enough to leave me feeling more than a little battered. More than a little caged-in.
Replacing the chickens’ frozen water with fresh, I feel like Laura Ingalls herself, but by the fourth trip out to the henhouse the literary novelty has quite worn off.
And yet I love winter.
Recently, I dropped the baby in her father’s arms and escaped out the front door with my other daughter, my firstborn. I don’t have ice skates of my own, but I carried hers. We opened the gate in the split-rail fence and we half-slid, half-stumbled down the sledding hill until we could cross the street to the frozen pond.
I stood in the snow, my toes slowly going numb, and I watched my daughter slice one foot and then the other across the ice. I said to myself, “This is Pennsylvania. This is our home.” The word Pennsylvania felt awkward. Perhaps I should blame my frozen lips. Or perhaps not. We are still learning the contours of this place and these people.
She circled the perimeter three times before I made her come in. I might lose my toes, I shouted.
My poor toes. They really did hurt, buried in snow like that, but it was a good kind of pain. Like the sharp, stinging realization that comes at the end of a very long walk. You know you’ve gone farther than you can handle, but it will be worth it. You are so close.
Three times around may have been too much. My daughter fell to her knees only part-way through our climb back up the sledding hill.
You’ll make it, I said. We’re nearly there.
Look! I can see our home from here.
*all photos taken by yours truly (with apologies to our talented, much beloved Photographer)
…a good kind of pain…they do exist! You describe a beautiful one.
Thank you for sharing your winter story.
They do. 🙂 Thank you for being here, Gwen.
I went the other way. I grew up in central Illinois and your photographs remind me of winters growing up. We had a low spot surrounded by timber on one patch of farmland, a slough with the best of ice because it was not a river and was sheltered from winds and the memories, snow forts, getting cold, thawing out, going back for more. Now I am in Oklahoma, more like Texas a cold day but probably 50 or 60 before the week is out. These photographs mean a lot to me. From home, building a home, going home. Thanks so very much.
Thank you, Dan. You put it well: “From home, building a home, going home.” Yes, it is home in those different but related contexts that so fascinates me.
First of all, thanks for a little credit for our rigorous Midwestern winters. 😉
Second of all, I agree. And I disagree. I think home is BOTH where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Maybe it’s one of those awkward paradoxes. (ANOTHER one 🙂 ) Perhaps parts of home stay with us all our lives, yes? And keep calling us forth … to what is beyond.
Always a joy to read, Christie.
I hope you’re right, Kelli. I think you may be. I know I hope I’m giving my kids something that will stay with them even as it calls them on. In our end is our beginning, yes? (with thanks to Mr. Eliot)
“Look! I can see our home from here”, you say using your earthly eyes.
But what do you see with your spiritual eyes? What’s right up ahead? What is it that’s gradually coming into view? What is it you see that makes you ready to take off on a dead run to embrace?
Larry, your questions have a prophetic ring in my ears. Because there is something I have only recently glimpsed, and I am running toward it … I can’t quite talk about it yet (it’s still too far off and dim for that), but I am eager and I’ll run as long as God gives me strength.
I love being outside … even in winter, especially if the sky in Colorado blue … as long as I’m dressed warmly enough. This week its been my heavy, usually only worn in the mountains ski jacket and my new Christmas boots from REI. They are so warm. I love them.
Sue, I’m realizing that I really do need a better pair of snowboots! Warm toes make all the difference, I think.
I love picturing you as your 8 year old self–reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and lamenting air conditioning. Great post, and I love the view into winter at Maplehurst!
Thank you, Aimee! I sometimes wish I could go back and tell my little-girl self, “Take heart! It only gets better!”
Home is where you “hang your heart” to quote some Christmas ornament hearts that I have. I have moved many times in my life from the time I was nine. Every place I have lived has been home because my family was with me -first my parents as a child and teenager and then when I got married my husband and then our children. We have made home in every place! We have “hung our hearts” in each one.
I love this, Lorilee. So good to remember that feeling at home does not necessarily depend on staying put.
I’ve lived quite a nomadic life and come to believe that home is truly where I’m going, not where I’ve come from. It is that intimate place of deep abiding that is a postcard hailing me toward the place of true fulfillment, the place that feels that I belong fully without reservation. We have glimpses of it in all the places we live, but every place has a twinge of longing with it. At least for me. Oh my, I love your writing Christie, it calls up beautiful soul places. Hugs to you, holding up my cup of tea and smiling this morning.
I so appreciate the heart of this, Chrisie. Having grown up in a military family, I moved every 2 years. Home then, was wherever we were at the moment. My physical home change so often that I learned to put down shallow roots, and always be ready to pick up and go. My true home is in Christ.
Almost. . . almost, you convince me. But, no. I am thoroughly a CA girl. Yet. . . these words, these pictures? Almost. . . .
Just lovely, Christie. Thank you.
I just found your blog via Conversion Diary, and I love it! Such beautiful photography. This was an interesting post to read because I hate winter and being cold – this gave a beautiful perspective on how it can be wonderful, not just hard. (And weren’t the Little House books the best? I used to want to fry a pig’s tail, but no real desire to eat one.)
Caroline, so glad you found me! Right now I’m reading Farmer Boy with my two oldest, so, yeah, pretty much living the dream. 🙂 Also, the idea of blowing up a pig’s bladder (I think it was a bladder?) and bopping it around like a balloon has always held a very strange appeal for me.
“but by the fourth trip out to the henhouse the literary novelty has quite worn off.”
smiling here…. would send Micah if I could.