131. Yesteryear

It beckoned me from sleep. Why was the room so quiet? Iíd go to the window and there was snow everywhere, the flakes tumbling down as far as the cones of suburban streetlights permitted me to see. I submitted prayers in that childhood for the fresh snow to shut down the schools in the morning and declare a day of play.

Once the radio or television announced a reprieve, breakfast could not be finished quick enough. While there was snow on the ground, I hurried away from breakfast and returned late for dinner.

You could fall in new snow and not get hurt. Snow crushed the thorny limbs of bushes and opened trails through the woods. Walking trails appeared into places you couldnít previously reach. You could find fresh prints of wildlife and easily track them. And there was sledding.

The popular hills were crowded and worn. If you were daring, and I suppose I was, you could sled down forested hillsides, stomach against the sled, dodging trees and flying off of buried roots. That close to the ground gave the perspective of the forest as a galloping hare sees it. The hill would end and the trail would stop at the bankís edge. I would throw the sled sideways and drag my boots before flying into the creek.

I preferred my sisterís Flexible Flyer to my own. Her sled was longer and she never used it. Mine was shorter and I remember always being too long for it.

When there were blizzards, and there seemed to be at least one every year, when snowdrifts were taller than me, I abandoned my bedroom and slept on the living room floor by the sliding glass doors leading to the backyard. Switching on the floodlights revealed an inhospitable night. The furious wind and freezing cold stayed on the other side of the double glass. I could relax comfortably in pajamas, rolled into a blanket, stretch out on wall-to-wall carpeting, which in that house was heated through the floor. I used to listen to the mono LPs that my father and sister had bought until I fell asleep. To think back on it now, I never felt safer than in that moment, the storm forming a harrowing barrier to intruders. I would imagine I was in a spaceship that had landed on a brutal planet, but still a beautiful planet.

It didnít snow every day, but I remember snow lingering on the ground for months, it being too cold to melt. Decades before I left Pennsylvania to come to Wales, the big snows stopped coming. Some winters we had no snow at all. Two generations grew up deprived of the season as I and all previous generations understood it.

Seven years in Cardiff and it never snowed, but once. A mere two or three inches that disappeared in two or three days. It has never snowed much in South Wales below the valleys, according to my Welsh friends. It brings to mind a passage from Ulysses: ďAll Ireland is washed by the gulfstream, Stephen said as he let honey trickle over a slice of the loaf.Ē And I think some of it gets past Ireland to squeeze up the Bristol Channel. But my friends also say, winters used to be much colder.
I feel the closing jaws of winter. The nights are longer at this latitude and not what I was accustomed to from living in the States. There might not be snows, but there are frequent frigid rains. The City of Cardiff pushes back against the bleakness with festive colored lights. The people do not cower in their warm homes hibernating until spring. They come out to form herds of shoppers for which the city provides a Christmas Market, an array of stalls tenanted with merchants selling Welsh crafts and foods. It is a good attitude.

This year, the Winter Solstice will arrive in Cardiff on Wednesday, 21st December at 21:47. I will set the alarm on the mobile phone, as I have done for every solstice and equinox. I like to ponder those moments as they are happening.

The illustration at the top of this essay is Mr Bentzman's latest selfie.

Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions,
he would be pleased to hear from you. 

You can find his several books at Enshrined Inside Me, his second collection of essays, is now available to purchase.