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Posts Tagged ‘Breaking down walls’

Everywhere, there were walls. Day by day, they’d grown up around us till every house and shop and school and road had its own borders, its own barriers. Keeping things out, keeping them in. Walls, running all over this frozen land. Walls made of snow. Not that the barriers were intentional, when we all went out with our shovels, blowers, and plows. But the walls came anyway, as we made a path from door to car, from car to sidewalk, from sidewalk to road. But at our house, we also had a path. A path between our neighbours’ house and our own.

Not that we’d used it often, that imaginary gateway, that break in the wall. No, not in such a winter when the snowfall set records and people had to shovel their roofs so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight, and icicles hung like thick stalactites from gutters, and the painful wind and cold brought tears to your eyes and chapped hands and cheeks and lips. No, not in such a winter.

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But then there came a day, one soft and snowy Sunday, when we did. Church had been canceled after an ice storm left thousands without power. So we were home, the day before us a little lonely and uncertain and unfilled. But then there came a knock.

I shuffled to the mud room in my slippers, found the tall frame of our neighbour filling the glass door. Expecting him to ask John’s help with the snow or maybe something to do with frozen pipes, I reached for the handle, hoping all was well.

“We’re not going anywhere today, and neither are you,” he said. “We’ve got a ham in the oven and we’re hoping you’ll come over and help us eat it.”

Well, such an invitation! Such a welcome invitation on such a silent, snowy day.

And so we put on our boots, didn’t bother with coats, and filled the silence with our chatter as we walked that path, that break in the wall of snow, and into our neighbours’ large kitchen.

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We stayed for hours. And I couldn’t tell you what it meant to sit round their table, surrounded by photos of their grandchildren and a collection of Eiffel Towers. But it was more than the ham and potatoes and veg that we ate while we talked and laughed. More than the tea and cookies and jello that came next. More than the stories from days past, told with such animation that we laughed over till our sides hurt. More than our neighbours themselves, who had begun as kind strangers and turned into friends.

It was the sum of it all that filled us that day, warmed us from the inside out, made us feel that winter was the most wonderful of seasons because it had brought us together–could bring us close to other family and friends–before spring came and the world opened up and let us sprawl out, warm in the sun but far from each other.

March is nearly upon us, but the temperatures are still frigid, and until the warmth comes to melt the mountains of snow and banish the walls, we will have winter. And for as long as it lasts, for all those long Saturday afternoons and black winter nights, I’ll be searching for ways to warm our home, to warm the hearts of our friends. With big pots of chili, and spontaneous tea parties with plates of shortbread taken from the rations John’s parents bring.

And that is the best way to not just survive winter, but love it.

It is said that good fences make good neighbours, and I agree. Good fences, good walls, they make good neighbours–but only when there is a gate.

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And there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree…. [F]our dry logs have in them all the circumstance necessary to a conversation of four or five hours, with chestnuts on the plate and a jug of wine between the legs. Yes, let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.

~Pietro Aretino, translated from Italian

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Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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Avonlea xo

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