Today has been a predominantly gray day with temperatures hovering around freezing. This morning while carefully navigating Reggie down side streets still flanked by dirty, waist-high snow drifts, the majority of our local sidewalks still buried under thick slabs of petrified ice, I felt it: the first incongruous stirrings of spring.
It wasn’t so much an outer meteorological phenomenon as an inner psychological one. There comes a point every year when you remember in your bones that winter never lasts: although any individual snowstorm is strong enough to crush your spirit, ultimately endurance triumphs over brute force. There comes a point every year when you’ve surrendered to the season, compliantly adopting an ice-friendly stride best described as a “winter waddle,” your center of gravity hunkered low over your heels. There comes a point every year when putting on and taking off boots becomes second nature, and wearing a coat, hat, and gloves seems as natural as leaving the house with a shirt and pants. Eventually, you get used to the cold, but only after you’ve become completely compliant to it: you have to reach the point just before crying uncle, the point when your soul is supple and you’re almost-ready to tell Old Man Winter he’s won.
But only almost.
One of my cousins back in Ohio–one of a number of seemingly interchangeable DiSabato men of my generation, a strapping slew of brothers and cousins, all of them state champion wrestlers in high school–once described the secret to the DiSabato clan’s legendary prowess on the wrestling mat. “Before any match,” he explained, “I look at my opponent long enough to realize there’s no way he can beat me.” At first blush, this remark sounds arrogant or unfounded: how can you beat a man simply by looking at him? But as DiSabato who has wrestled with my share of big, burly winters, I know exactly what my cousin was talking about.
There comes a moment every year when, after looking Old Man Winter in the eye long enough, I see him blink. Yes, there have been times this season when a particular storm has pinned me to the mat, an icy knee planted on my back. Yes, there have been times when I’ve been ready to tap my surrender. But then I remember that although my opponent is strong, I’ve always outlasted him. Come February, I know there are still plenty of snowstorms between now and spring…but I also watch as the hours of daylight lengthen, and I know in my bones that when this match is over, we the warm-blooded ones will triumph. Old Man Winter is destined to reign for only for a season, and then he too shall be vanquished, sent packing by the simple truth that nothing cold can stay.