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Saturday essay: Winter's renewal

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

“The nakedness and asperity of the wintery world always fill the beholder with pensive and profound astonishment,” wrote 18th-century English essayist Samuel Johnson.

Indeed, there is a roughness and a harshness to this stripped-bare season. The winds and the cold that bite with their teeth and lash with their tail can bruise and batter our souls. It is as if life itself has been snatched from us. And despite knowing better, we question whether there will be, can be, another spring.

But upon closer examination — aided perhaps by a cup of sweet English tea that rekindles our souls — our pensiveness wanes; our astonishment no longer invites the pejorative. For there's plenty of life, if not grandeur, to be found in the seasonal slumber.

Is there anything more beautiful than the contrast of the red cardinal against the bark of an ice-slathered silver maple? Why, yes, there is: Even more stark in its beauty is the counterpose of the elusive red fox and its kits, scampering back to their den, against the fresh comforter of snow.

And back inside? William Cowper, one of Mr. Johnson's contemporaries, crowned winter as “the king of intimate delights.”

“Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness,

“And all the comforts that the lowly roof

“Of undisturb'd retirement, and the hours

“Of long uninterrupted evening know.”

Winter need not be the season of our discontent. It is, as we must attest, the season of our renewal.

— Colin McNickle

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