by John J. Coughlin

Autumn winds are dying
As winter rears its head.
Soon the land will sleep again
In the silence of the dead.

The gray sky seems a blanket.
The golden trees now bare;
Their branches reach out to the sky
To grasp the misty air.

Dark browns replace the orange
And grays replace the blue
Soon snow will change this landscape
As the spiral dance holds true

The silence will be welcomed
By a solitary crow.
An eerie song of mystery
That few will ever know.

For winter keeps its secrets,
The ones not hard to hide.
The answer’s all around us,
But the question sleeps inside.

Winter is a very sad season. Perhaps not so much for those who live in warm climates like California or Singapore, but for us here on the Northeastern seaboard, it’s pretty depressing. During winter, the world sits down and puts its head in its hands, like an aging woman who has nothing to do but stare into a mirror and watch herself grow old.

The college students return home from the excitement of their hallowed halls of learning, many of them unhappy to be back to a place they wanted to leave behind. The grown-ups shrug their shoulders and sigh as they turn up the heat, glancing unhappily at the mounting electricity and heating bills. Winter is definitely a depressing month.

I used to like winter. The holiday season was exciting, with presents and parties. But this year, suddenly, I feel old. As I glance outside of my bedroom window at the teenaged oak tree dangling its leaves in the wind, the white dust slowly chilling the life out of the grass, and the perpetually white winter sky, I remember all the years that have already passed (17 in total). All those memories from arriving at Central Elementary School for the first day of 2nd grade to fooling around with my classmates in Beijing compete with each other for precedence in my mind. Or maybe I’m just growing old.

People do have a tendency, I suppose, to act like this, to reminisce when they are transitioning from one phase of their life to another. Maybe that is the “secret” of winter – memories – winter is a slow drowsy month during which the world falls asleep and memories float to the surface. After all, when winter passes, a new year comes and a new spring and the world has changed again. So we reminisce during these cold winter months.

As Humphrey Bogart says in Casablanca, Here’s to looking at you winter. And here’s to remembering.