desolate.jpg Steel-gray morning clouds moving across a chilly sky... the last earnest red leaf letting go of the empty branch with a sigh... the crackling complexity of the frost on the grass... all signs point to winter. She's a-comin'.

Now it's true that the last couple of days have been unseasonably warm, but don't let the Ice Queen fool you. She's collecting herself. Soon she'll wake us with a slap on the face as we open our doors, heading off to work, leaving our cheeks ringing with the cold. She tug meanly at our coats, daring us to leave them unbuttoned. I hate her.

Yet, I'll tolerate her. Why? Because she can't stop Thanksgiving or Christmas or the birth of a new year. And shopping is more fun when you're battling the wind, armed with your snuggly scarves and thick sweaters, when you're on a mission to find the one present that will make your true love smile the most brightly.

I suppose I'll begrudge her icy disposition less because her presence makes me really value the coziness of my home. It's all relative, after all. And in the summer time I want to escape the confines of the walls because it's too hot, and in the spring and fall the outdoors are too beautiful to ignore. Winter is a beauty, too, but in a cruel way. Like a poisonous snake or a river of lava. Look, marvel, but don't let it bite you! Don't fall in!

If Winter is death, Ceres mourning her kidnapped daughter and refusing to let anything bloom, then Autumn is the dying time... when Persephone is obliviously playing too near the deep well, her sunny gold hair in a messy braid down her back, her sky blue eyes the color of naive. When Hades rises from the hot depths of his hellish home to snatch that gorgeous child for his turn as her keeper, and when Ceres drops the dried roses, letting their brittle petals crack and smash against the ground, and when the last screams of Persephone are smothered by the dirt... Winter is.

I'm not a morning person, but occasionally something will wake me much earlier than need be, and if I'm coherent enough I'll sometimes raise the blinds in our room and peer at the chalky, gray outside. I suck my breath in hard, wishing it was still October and all autumn-drenched and lovely. I am bitter about my season being over. Too soon, I think, too soon.

Then Jon, in his sleep, turns or sighs. I am smiling again. As I gaze out the window my perspective changes. Winter is out there, after all. And in here I have a pocket of warmth and love to cherish until I absolutely have to go outside and face the world in its present condition. Winter makes me more grateful for socks, fireplaces, hot cider, quilts, hats... and for my sweet husband. I nudge him gently, his eyes open just a bit.

"Honey," he whispers. "Come back to sleep." He needn't ask twice. We're curled up in the warmest place, where Winter's frozen fingers simple can't creep in.

Because Winter allows for the cheeriest of holidays, and because it gives me more excuses to decorate my home and sing and bake pumpkin bread, and because if Jon thinks my toes are too chilly he'll chase me, tackle me and make me wear socks... I'll agree to a truce with the Ice Queen.

Besides, it's not like we Californians have to deal with snow or sleet. Spring will burst onto the scene giggling right around my birthday! That's something to look forward to!