"I’m a winter girl. I like coming out when things are desolate and everybody’s ready to slit their wrists"
It is a dark time of year, the depths of January, well past the distraction—good or bad—of the holiday season but still well before the first crocuses poke their purple or white heads through the snow, still well before the daffodils bend and shine bright and yellow as if calling forth the summer sun.
“We are all a little stuck this time of year,” my editor replied when I queried this week’s topic. “Too much winter, not a hint of spring.” Indeed even now as the subway train I’m on peeks out from the tunnel to go over the Manhattan bridge the usual glitter of the skyline is in truth replaced by grey sky running into the grey East River next to the grey FDR drive and tall grey buildings. Even the city has dulled, its luster faded and caked with snow and salt from treating the icy roads, the sun not quite out but not quite hidden, clouds not quite fluffy and not parting but haphazardly tossed across the sky.
I’ve been sick with a common cold for most of January. As soon as the cough got bad enough and went on long enough to warrant doctor care, I quickly made an appointment at the LGBT clinic where they’ll see uninsured struggling artists like myself, where I was promptly told just as I suspected: It is just a common cold. An annoyance, but nothing to be worried about. Fluids. Rest.
Which is precisely why I dislike going to doctors—they never tell me anything I don’t already know. But then again, I suppose that’s a good thing. Doctors should be like plane flights: no surprises, no scares.
And now, another week later, as it is inevitable, my other girlfriend Kristen has caught the cold and is just as miserable as I’ve been the past few weeks. And while colds are like snow days in some ways, y’all, they are not like snow days in one key other way, in that they are decidedly not sexy.
What I’m trying to say is that I haven’t had nearly enough sex play this January, despite one of my resolutions—being to have more sex this year. And it doesn’t look good for the next week or so, either—not while the two of us are still coughing up phlegm and sneezing and wheezing and achey and ready to go to bed at 8 p.m.
But really, when I stop to think about it, I do not dislike this time of year. I think it’s beautiful outside, the ground covered in white, showing every footprint of every critter who happens along that particular path, the trees bare to their skeletons, everything frozen. The sun, though on its way back to us, is still setting early and giving us extra long darkness during our days; the frozen rivers and lakes outside the cities are topped with snow and running into the white sky. There’s something in these dark days, something in the illuminatory brightness of the glistening snow during the peak of these desolate nights, something hidden in the middle like a diamond in a mine that I am still attempting to excavate.
I like these dark days. I like the desolation of the bare trees upon the mountainside, the bare beige winter grass waist-tall in the plains and barely showing any sign of living except that it has not yet fallen over. I like how bare everything is, how stripped down to the essentials. None of the superfluous flowering of pinks and purples, no rosy smells to distract and coerce, no thick canopy of leaves to hide under, no walks at twilight to see the fireflies rising from the ground, no honeysuckle scented night sky to lie back under and watch falling stars after dinner in bare feet.
Here, we are down to the essentials. Here, we are forced to cut back, to cut out the excess. To hole up with only our own ideas and the stillness of our own minds to keep us company.
So, what is it that I want to pursue in this barren time, in this frozen wasteland, in this place of possibility? What seeds do I want to begin to gather, such that I can plant them when the ground thaws?
This year, I’m reminded of my original calling, the path whispered to me from some inner voice since I was a small child: I want to write.
I’m lucky, in that I can honestly say that I have been writing, I write daily, I write weekly, I publish frequently both online and in print, and for all of those opportunities I continue to be ever grateful, humbled, full of appreciation that anything I write might be read. But there are still some ways to reach beyond myself, to enhance what it is that I pursue, and to remember that I write because I must, because I am compelled to analyze and understand the world around me, to fiercely experience the emotionality of every moment, to record and replay and receive the gifts that the world around me has to offer. It is not easy, it is never easy and has never been easy, but it is a rich space of awakening and enlightenment. I don’t know what else I would do with my every morning aside from this.
In these seemingly boring, under-impressive, unimportant weeks in the deep winter, I have to remind myself what it’s like to turn inward and find a voice waiting for me there, a voice I have spent years sharpening, preening, fluffing, encouraging, and protecting.
I don’t expect to write bestsellers. But I do expect to write. I don’t expect to get rich off of my words as they find their way into books and onto computer screens, but I do expect to be compensated for my thinking, intention, and time. I don’t expect everyone to understand, but I do expect to do my best to explain how it is that I see and understand the world, and to, hopefully, follow some of my deepest heart’s desires to foster tolerance and celebration of the differences between us.
These are the stories I continue to struggle to tell, my stories, the stories of my community and of the lineage in which I firmly claim belonging. Telling the stories of my own liberation, I can only hope that someone out there finds value in my own struggles, and that it makes their struggle a little easier, their own personal tragedies a little less tragic and a little more determined, a little easier to overcome. It is always possible to reach into the center of horrifying stories and come out with a nugget of human truth, beautiful and sublime.
So I’m making room. I’m visualizing the unbroken surface of a frozen lake, the lone tree figures on a hill against a sky filled with snow clouds. I’m listening to the inner voice that has taken me this far and trying to honor the intentions, the art, the muse, when it comes after me. I’m looking beyond the frozen landscape to see an unmarked blank canvas, just waiting for the first line, first word, first letter to be etched upon it.
“There is light in the darkness,” bell hooks writes in Remembering Rapture. “You just have to find it.”
I’m looking, bell. I’m open and ready and making plenty of space for the light to rush in, precisely when it’s time.