Winter in Idaho always reminds me of the word “penetrating.” As I stand, leaning on my traffic-cone-orange snow shovel, I notice my slightly increased rate of breath, the ethereal glow of LED crosses and net-wrapped bushes against the violet sky, my neighborhood lit up by reflective white snow. I am stupid with my winter precautions, donning a hoodie and baseball cap (the pristine, new 49ers hat that darling wifey bought for me out of nowhere), thinking that those, along with my afternoon “exercise,” ought to be enough to fend off the cold.
The cold I feel in my fingers is penetrating. Bone-chilling. It’s cut to my core… well, the core of my hands, and my feet as well. Extremes in weather are always so humbling. It is a little amazing that people can live in places like this during the winter. It took me two or three years to realize that one of the big reasons Boise and Idaho don’t have a large homeless population is because very few would have the means to survive out of doors right now. We’re not a hardy species, naturally; for all of our accomplishments and intellect and ingenuity, weather native to our own planet can still kill us.
Glancing over at the gaudiness of my neighbors bright white, LED-lit cross, I still think the neighborhood is beautiful. We think our old school, C9, ceramic-coated lights are as classic as it gets. Our jellybean lights, we call them. We hate LEDs with their artificial brilliance, somehow more artificial than ours. We’re waxing Christmas-ier-than-thou, I suppose. Although, we both appreciate how disconnected all of the lights in our neighborhood are, and the fact that having colored lights of all shapes and sizes and neatness and sloppiness of execution and all of the randomness makes its own kind of beauty.
My breath comes out semi-thick like cigarette smoke or engine exhaust. I look up the street, toward the stop sign, and envision my wife coming home in her silver Kia, butt warm from those fancy butt-warmers, ready to turn on some Christmas with the Rat Pack and think about making dinner while the monster runs free throughout the great room and living room and tears ornaments from the tree, depositing them in random corners of our house, screeching out unintelligible questions none of us will ever get the answer to, pointing out what sounds like the greatest atrocities and overlooked injustices in our living room, guest bathroom, house plants, piles of dirty laundry and spent gift wrap.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the time of year when suicide rates climb their highest, and I think of the Pacific Northwest. My rain people. I’m so fortunate to have family that I’d kill for, a house that keeps me warm, and a job that keeps the house. So fortunate to complain about needing to lose weight, rather than find sustenance.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m grateful to be alive.
Rather than complaining about the cold or things I don’t have or whatever I tend to bitch about, I’m choosing to love life and the season and my family. It’s beautiful. The surreal glow of car lot lights and all of the neon commerce from Fairview reflects off of the pristine, newly fallen snow, illuminating my world like we’re in the far, far North. Hyperborea. Surreal estate.
This year, the ethereal glow is reassuring and warm. My house hums softly, thanks to jellybean lights of all colors, perfectly ovaloid and comforting, like hot, dark bread and greasy soup. Like peppermint Schnapps in my hot chocolate. A star on our tree. A gleam in his eye.
If I don’t ever say it closer to the appropriate date, Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Love from mine to yours.