-14 but the weather woman says it feels more like -17. Dawn lifts the heavy darkness of winter enough to see the silver landscape. My glove sticks to the gate as I open the latch, and I gently peel it off again. The snow is so dry it sounds like styrofoam under my boots. My face feels the grip of winter on it; the skin feels stretched and ageing temporarily halts. The rest of me continues ageing under many layers. At least it is a warm sort of process.
The candelabras of Swedish Christmas have been dutifully placed in every window. They glimmer with familiarity: “Here we are again; the year has gone round.” Our windows are no exception. The children have grown and there is more time to do things on time. A pine wreath with a casually-tied red ribbon hangs on the front door. It is a gift made by a friend and symbolizes the essence of the season. The roof is covered with snow, disguising the need for a paint job. The house looks perfect in this wolf winter.
On Dog Island in the park, I spot what I think looks like a glimmering light on the park bench. Perhaps it is just the morning light hitting a metal hinge? No, it is a small candle, protected in a glass jar, that has been lit and left there by someone in the small hours. Was it the little bit of joy experienced by a homeless person who had found an unused candle at the dump, and used one of his last matches to light it? There are no marks in the snow on the bench. No one had sat there next to the candle. Was it the park attendant out early to surprise his beloved dog walkers? On a morning this cold? There was a spot of magic around this lit candle on the bench. Somewhere in the cold air was the thought that someone who needed it would find it in this wolf winter.
Home in the back yard, a cat’s tail swirls over the snow scanning for mice. Under the white insulation in small caves under the wilted garden brush, mice struggle to survive. The cat crouches in the colors of a tiger waiting for the right moment. The wolf winter is cold and unforgiving, and warm and generous. Where there is contradiction, there is fascination, and so we go on with our celebration of light towards the darkest day.
Order Rose in the Sand, Julie Lindahl’s prize-winning book about a decade lived on a Swedish island. Learn more about her non-profit for story-telling and the new initiative, Beyond Tolerance, at www.storiesforsociety.com.