Living in Italy I often hear people say how much they hate the winter and that they long for the long, hot days of summer. It is true that today's torrential rain is not only gloomy but also quite scary in its intensity and as the River Arno risks bursting its banks many people are holding their breaths and hoping the floods will not come or will cause minimal damage. However, on the whole, I like winter. It has a quiet beauty that draws my eye to the starkly skeletal branches criss-crossing a winter-white sky. The crisp feel of frost underfoot and the purity of the icy air make me smile and when snow begins to fall and smudge the harsh lines of the landscape I am as exhilarated as a child.
Spring and summer have an exuberant beauty and the mellow hues of autumn, as the stored summer heat seeps out again in vibrant shades of red and gold, warm my heart. Yet it is winter, with its harsh light, its uncompromising extremes of weather and its long hours of darkness that lets me go deep inside and contemplate life anew.
As a child I found the early twilight, when darkness would fold in around me as I walked home from school, strangely comforting. I loved sitting at the window watching rain fall and the trees bend to the wind's tune, while I was snug in my warm home. I also loved the rainbow patterns in the rain-drenched tarmac beneath the street lamps. Winter gives us an excuse to stay in by the fire, stoke the warmth of our relationships and meditate in the stillness, as nature breathes in deeply and nurtures the seeds in the earth's womb.
Snow is the most treasured and eagerly anticipated treasure of winter. Where we live, It does not come every year and no amount of yearning or watching the clouds can make it appear but when it does and you wake to a magical world of white, the joy is overwhelming. Every sordid corner of our man-made world is suddenly softened, draped in crystal sheets of pure white that reflect the sun like myriad diamonds.
I find winter very nurturing. I am aware that I am one of the lucky ones because I have a solid, warm home from which to contemplate the harsh conditions outside and without that luxury I would undoubtedly view things very differently. Today I am sitting writing this near the fire which my son has just built up, listening to the wood crackle and spit, the rhythmic drumming of rain on the roof and watching the raindrops chase each other across the windows, I feel so cosy and "at home". In a while I will find a quiet corner and meditate to the whoosh and spash of the cars as they rush by outside. Then I will cook some pasta and move the table close to the fire's warmth and be grateful for such a peaceful winter day.