Winter has a charm all its own – some of us love it, some of us loathe it. Being in the former group, I wait patiently for winter to appear here in Madrid, and I forget that this is it, this what I get now, a mild season with January as its coldest month dropping to its lowest at 5.5°C (41.9°F). With some leaves still clinging to the trees and only wearing a light winter jacket, I have to say I miss the extreme cold of winter, the snow, the quiet and the beauty that it bears.
One favorite winter activity is going for long walks alone out in a garden or surrounding landscape to escape from being indoors. As a student at Longwood Gardens I often ventured outside where I used to visit Winterthur Gardens once a month to take some solitary time away from school, work and life in general, as a garden has always been an escape for my mind. I remember once driving to Winterthur a day after a storm, eager to see this beautiful landscape garden cloaked in snow, praying it would not be closed. It was open, and as I walked around crunching through the snow, I relished seeing the gardens empty, imagining them as my own private garden. All the paths were empty except for the telltale signs of beast and bird darting from one shrubbery to the next, through furry glimpses or imprints left in snow.
With snow crunching underfoot, I made my way to the Pinetum and walked excitedly underneath its dark canopy of snow laden branches. Seeing the dark undersides of the branches in contrast with the white surroundings was stunning, as if all of life was muffled, suspended, quiet with only the sharp cold piercing the silence. I continued all the way into the middle, leaned against the trunk of a pine and slid down to the ground. I sat alone in a foot of snow for what seemed like hours, absorbing the crystalline surroundings, staring into and through the dark wood, and having great admiration for the tree silhouettes in their true naked selves. There was that heavy silence in the forest from all of the surrounding snow until a hawk started screeching as it circled above, unknowingly making the experience more cathartic. Circling, calling, and diving, the hawk continued its flight over and over, closely with wings fully extended and wide eyes scanning. I stayed until the snow started to go gray from the dissipating evening light. Content and at ease, I made my way back, feeling as if I had taken the longest and most regenerating nap I’d ever known. – James