Three years ago, if anyone had told me or even tried to convince me that winter is one of the best seasons I would have said they had lost all their marbles. As one who has spent most of her life in the tropics, winter has always been my nemesis, and I can clearly remember a time when I developed severe allergies when temperatures dropped below 15C. I thoroughly dislike all the layers you have to put on, and then try to maintain some sort of dignified countenance when trying not to resemble a constipated penguin desperate for a loo. Slippery sidewalks and frozen hands are tragedies waiting in the wings, full of promising menace if you don’t have the proper covering i.e. shoes or gloves. Summers are so much easer with one layer, the lightest of footwear, and even underwear being optional!
Oh how I mourned the lack of heat and sunshine during the miserably cold months here in Berlin, but now that I am entering my third winter, I take it all back! Yes, you read correctly – I take it all back, and must confess to a newfound love the four seasons, the wonderful cycle of life with the most precious covenant of resilience being reaffirmed with each changing landscape, temperatures, and even texture in the air. Much as I miss the constancy of the sunshine in Asia, I don’t miss the humidity or the monsoons, and look forward to all the grandiosely dramatic or minute changes along the familiar paths and riverbanks.
When moving here, I knew I had arrived overhaul everything safe and familiar in my life, and plunge into a brand new adventure, discovering my authentic self. Part of that journey has been heavily influenced by the four seasons, and Vivaldi has nothing to do with it! Winter has turned out to be the season that has taught me the most about life. Most people thrive on warm, sunny summers, savouring moments under big, luscious trees with a cold drink. How many writers have churned out their masterpieces under a wise old walnut tree, or perhaps even friendly chestnut. Trees are like peacocks, when the time is right, they flaunt their leaves to impress humans and fauna alike. The strength and value of a tree, however, is not measured by the amount of leaves or generosity of the branches. Take away all that, and strip it bare, what are you left with? The inner core, the bare trunk and rough side that are anything but pretty – but are the alpha and omega of the tree’s existence.
You can get lost in the colours of summer and autumn, telling yourself that life is all about vibrancy, showing off your best side, but then stop and ask yourself, how much are really hiding underneath? Trees and winter are wonderful teachers in that respect, because they are blunt, unashamed and go straight to the point, showing us once a year that all your trimmings and possessions are fleeting illusions, temporary beauty that fade and fall when the weather gets rough. It is the winter that brings out the true grit, and tests your soul – yes, your bones too!
At the end of the day, it is not what you own, or how much money you have in the bank, or how many coats and shoes are cluttering your closet. It is about your core values, what you do to make your corner of the world a better place, and how much comfort and joy you bring to those that matter. Count the rings of a tree, and it will tell you how much it has endured, witnessed, withstood, and ultimately – lived, not just existed without purpose wherever it was planted.
Last but not least, winters are a perfect reminder that even when you have been stripped down by life to the bare minimum, you can still clothe your soul with the elegance and dignity of light. What your inner light consists of is entirely up to you, but it is there to create shadows and silhouettes that generate fantasies and dreams. The cold and emptiness are, after all, temporary. You see, the greatest secret of appreciating winters, is knowing that each one brings a promise of renewal and spring with it without fail. The snow and ice will melt, and the crocuses will break through.