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The winter closed in on us with alarming decisiveness this year. One minute I was outlandishly tan, floating down the Snoqualmie with screw-top Coors Lights dangling off a tube, and the next I couldn’t feel my fingers.

As soon as the chill sets in, I get very brave. For, like, two seconds. I charge into November, sweaters in tow, breathing in the woodsmoke and the misty bite in the air with vigor, thinking YES, this is the time for nesting and warmth and I am ready and this is good. The daylight starts to dwindle earlier and earlier, until lunch is a sunset affair. The rain pours down with no consideration for what shoes I decided to wear, and all my socks break up with each other, leaving my sock drawer a sad and a pathetic singles scene.

I tend to limp into December with a whimper, hiding under my sweaters, gazing out into the icy abyss and thinking Fuck. Five more months of this. 

And then I burrow into my apartment, and only leave to do necessary things like get food, booze, and earn money.

But it doesn’t help.

I read this gorgeous and educational (gorgeducational) book about five winters ago called Winter World by Bernd Heinrich. It talks about all the different ways that nature not only survives, but thrives in winter. How animals have evolved to find abundance in the sparse sparkle of the deep winter. I remember one quote from the book that has always resonated with me;

“We gauge what we think is possible by what we know from experience.”

When I recalled that quote (or the gist of it; I had to flip through the book again to make sure I wasn’t making it up, as I am wont to do), I was curled underneath about five blankets and my duvet a few nights ago, with Netflix running. No wonder I always get in such a funk in the winter- I have never made it possible not to be. I predetermine what I am capable of, what I see as possible, based on my established patterns.

But fuck patterns. Life is a fleeting and glorious mess, exploding in color with no traceable consistency. There is no use trying to contain it. It’s easy to see that call to action in summer, that season of sateen nights and gauzy days, all fluttering and wild and light. The winter seems like a hard stop- the period to the sentence of adventure. But it’s not, it can’t be.

So I woke up at 5:45 AM and went to Snoqualmie Falls.

Snoqualmie Falls are about 45 minutes away from me, east from Seattle and just past Fall City. In the summer, they tumble down the 270 foot rock face into the river of the same name, surrounded by gossamer evergreens and an ever-present veil of mist. In the winter, they freeze. The mist clings to the rocks, glazing them with glitter in all shades of blue and white, and the ice-heavy trees bow in deference to the tireless churn below.

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And I raced the sunrise out there two days in a row, breathless with solitude and buzzing with the expansion of the winter world as I-90 opened up. The second morning I took my friend Kelly with me, stopping for gas station coffee and pulling over as the sun rolled lazily out of her fiery sleep.

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I can’t decide which day I liked better- the solitude or the companionship. But it’s not a dichotomy in the purest sense- we need to be alone so we can center in ourselves. We need people to let into that center, even when we feel enshrined in ice; slumbering and protecting our warm center. We need to look at things that are much bigger than we are, things that transform their presence with the seasons. We need to peek out of our winter hibernation to knock the limits off ourselves, so we know what’s possible. At this point, it seems that anything is.

That could also be the sleep deprivation talking.

For a taste of what I was listening to in order to stay awake, here’s a playlist:

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