Inventing Winter: Free Writing from the Cafe


Winter isn’t just about the cold.

We layer up to protect our bodies from the cold, the wind, and the occasional flake of snow, while the world around us is stripped bare.

This morning, I noticed the trees. They’re naked. Their leaves have left just as children do, and now they stand exposed, their branches skeletons of what was and what will soon be again.

And tomorrow, we’ll “spring forward.” We’ll play with time like we own it. We’ll alter it to fit our schedules, kidnapping the sun that’s been painfully shy since November. And he’ll stay with us, letting us think it’s our idea, until November comes again and takes back what is hers.

We’re hibernating. We’re waiting.

But Winter isn’t just about what’s not here, now. It’s about what absence reveals. If the seasons are writing, Winter is erasure poetry.

There are roads I drove on in November yellows, October reds and oranges, and varying shades of September greens that are different roads in January and February. The leaves are gone and I can see the city in blues, greys, and different shades of brown. Overlooks. I didn’t know the beauty of their height in the fall, only the joy of their color.

I’m in a crowded café this morning, alone with my thoughts and my latte, and I’m dwelling on change. And the trees. And I’m preoccupied with time.

My body remains bundled because I’m sitting near the door where small bursts of the weather can find me, but I’m comfortable. Because it’s winter. And I’m writing, and that’s what Winter wants: cold mornings, lattes, and thought. Or maybe that’s what I want and Winter allows me this indulgence.

Last night my boyfriend told me a story about an inventor, and I stopped him to ask if he’d really invented the thing or if he’d discovered it. His reply was another question: Is anything ever really invented? Maybe we only discover things that are already there, things that allow us to name them, letting us think it was our idea.

Winter wants truth, a desire we share, and the cold edits the world around me, focusing my attention on simple, found poetry. I’m seeing the city as I haven’t seen it before: stripped bare to the skeletons of trees, the exposed earth, and the homeless in shorts on the streets. And I’m humbled.

I can’t quite name this morning’s preoccupation with Winter or the coming change of Spring. But I know there’s something there, it exists, it seeks a name. It’s on the tip of my tongue, waiting to be stripped bare for all to see like the overlooks on roads I thought I knew. Waiting to be discovered, not invented, allowing me to name it like it was my idea.

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