Winter Mood


We are in the middle of winter, so a good time to reflect on it. [I’m preparing this post during Winter Storm Elliot’s pre-Christmas deep freeze in our area, so winter is strongly on my mind but of course I don’t know what the weather will be for this post date, so it may not be quite as wintery as when I write this.]

“For the mood of the winter sea, read Joseph Conrad‘s description:


The greyness of the whole immense surface, the wind furrows upon the faces of the waves, the great masses of foam, tossed about and waving, like matted white locks, give to the sea in a gale an appearance of hoary age, lustreless, dull, without gleams, as though it had been created before light itself. (The Mirror of the Sea, p 71)


But the symbols of hope are not lacking even in the grayness and bleakness of the winter sea. On land we know that the apparent lifelessness of winter is an illusion. Look closely at the bare branches of a tree, on which not the palest gleam of green can be discerned.


Yet, spaced along each branch are the leaf buds, all the spring’s magic of swelling green concealed and safely preserved under the insulating, overlapping layers. Pick off a piece of the rough bark of the trunk; there you will find hibernating insects. Dig down through the snow into the earth. There are the eggs of next summer’s grasshoppers; there are the dormant seeds from which will come the grass, the herb, the oak tree.


So, too, the lifelessness, the hopelessness, the despair of the winter sea are an illusion. Everywhere are the assurances that the cycle has come to the full, containing the means of its own renewal.


There is the promise of a new spring in the very iciness of the winter sea, in the chilling of the water, which must, before many weeks, become so heavy that it will plunge downward, precipitating the overturn that is the first act in the drama of spring. (Rachel Carson, ‘The Sea Around Us’, in THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, pp 136-137)