Last weekend we went to see the classic Christmas fairy tale “The Nutcracker” at the Morris Civic Theater. The whole experience is kind of like a fairy tale. Everyone is dressed up, some to the nines. The near-opulence and decorative architecture of the Morris Civic building feel almost magical when you sit down at the top of the balcony, and see it all spread below.
The lights go out, the room is quiet, the music begins, the curtains open, and then you’re in another time and world. There are magicians, monsters, fairies and princes. It was as much fun to watch my kids’ faces as it was to watch the ballet.
Magic and beauty and adventure are the fun parts of a fairy tale. But they’re only good if there is an opposite of those, as well. That’s kind of what driving home after the show is like. It’s getting dark already. Cold rain is falling. The country stretches of forest and farm along U.S. 20 are gray and black and bleak. The oppression of winter is in the air, lurking just on the other side of the holiday season, waiting for its turn to swallow us up. We hold it at bay for a little bit, with our candles and decorated trees, family gatherings and a few days off from work. But then the winter closes in.
This is depressing to me. Winter didn’t used to feel this way.
I suppose part of it has to do with getting older, and not having anyone to bundle me up and send me out with mittens and friends.
Year by year, I recognize that it also, by in large, has to do with the fact that winter is not what it once was. It’s not cold enough, it’s not snowy. Yeah, there are difficulties that come with snow and cold, but I would still prefer those to mud and mud, and more mud. Call me a Grinch. Call me a Scrooge. Call me naïve. What I find depressing about winter is that we’re losing it. I think we’re wrong not to mourn this loss, even if it is too late to do anything about it.
In a fairy tale there would be an old crone, or a wretched frog, or a bright bird that would give a heroic task. The deep sleeping winter giant of the far north would have to be wakened. On the way to find the winter giant, great perils would be overcome. In the end, the giant would be revived, delivered from some sinister enchantment, winter would come again with banks of snow and deep cold, allowing plants and animals and people to rest and reset themselves properly before the coming summer. Balance would be restored.