four winters

The onset of winter quickens. My heart thickens. My soul sickens. We can only hunker down and hope for the best.

September and October were uncharacteristically glorious. The cool crisp autumn brilliance of Amsterdam filled our world with light, color, clarity, and fresh faith for the future… But as the calendar relentlessly plows into November, as the skies darken and descend, as the gutters swell with rain and decaying leaves — I realize that Holland cannot forever escape its dreary destiny, its monochromatic misery, its winter of 2005-2006. Our fourth winter on the Continent.

Our first winter in Holland was birth into the harsh world of a new reality. Naked, cold, hungry, and scared, we flailed and wailed through our first months in Amsterdam until spring’s bosom soothed and secured us in our cultural infancy.

In turn, our second winter in Holland rubbed open raw and bleeding wounds — less immediate yet actually more painful than the year of our cultural nativity. The crushing self-realization of new responsibilities following the catastrophic loss of dear friends, the sorrowful sobs of a miscarried pregnancy, the echoed emptiness of observing the conclusion to a hard-fought first year on the figurative frontier… We had never experienced — and hope to never again experience — such a time of tribulation and testing. Yet when the time was complete, we were rewarded by the return to the hopes and joys of sunnier days.

Our third winter in Holland was more of a dull sensation of discomfort– the ignoble itch of a healing scab. We awkwardly learned to chart our way through life as a family of four. And we learned to hope and persist in spite of the darkness, in spite of the cold, in spite of the defeatist anthem that the mind spontaneously generates as a false assurance of winter’s permanence. Still we were no less glad when spring actually showed up to conquer the despondance of winter and remind us of happier times.

I cannot say that I look forward to this winter, our fourth winter in Holland. I can encourage myself with the reminder of occasional joys that color the season — the joyful aquatic procession of Sinterklaas into the heart of Old Amsterdam… the surprise of scent indicating the immediate vicinity Oliebollen being sold from a brightly-lit trailer… the warm glow of a cafe in the Jordaan… There is beauty in Holland’s winters, which I cannot deny and should not forget. But experience tells me that the upcoming winter will not be easy. Sunlight deprivation has an empiracally-verifiable effect on the human psyche. No amount of optimism can take the sting out of cold fingers pried from the handlebars of my bicyles at the end of a wet and gray commute. And I cannot help but be reminded of the last three winters.

It’s only November and yet — already — I hope and anticipate the beauty and warmth of spring, the return of color and creativity, the survival of four winters in Holland.

This entry was posted in Amsterdam, Culture Shock, Family, Health, Introspection, Seasonal Depression, The Netherlands, Transition, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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