On winter

I have a good friend who really hates winter, and so at this time of year I find myself often thinking of her. She hates the cold and the longer darkened hours, and if hibernation were an option for humans I suspect she would take it. She is not alone.

I have a rather more complex reaction to this particular season, which was highlighted this week when a sudden, startling hail and rain storm stripped the trees of what (perhaps as a result of the unusually long, hot summer) had been a particularly spectacular autumn display. Their extraordinary array of reds, yellows and browns, like safe firelight, were almost instantly disrobed, leaving bare branches lifting to the sky as if in supplication. At first, I felt saddened, aware only of the sense of loss as their beauty was trampled underfoot and scattered and muddied by passing cars.

But then I looked again. Those same boughs that I’d seen as seeking mercy, now visible again after their summer covering, had a shape and beauty of their own which only their exposure could reveal, in particular in silhouette against the winter sky. The vibrancy of a jay, usually a shy and secretive bird, which would have been veiled before by the leaves, took on a striking significance against the grey sky.

As people we always fear exposure, that if the coverings of role, or status, or simply the persona we wear for the world are somehow removed, and people see us as we really are in all our fragile vulnerability, that we will be seen as ugly or unacceptable. Yet perhaps the reality is that it is only when we are brave enough to be seen as we are that our true beauty, obscured by such coverings, can be revealed.

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