The Teeth of Winter
Where I come from, winter is a savage thing.
It’s not merely the cold, the snow, the ice that breaks tree branches and pipes and power poles like so many matchsticks, although there’s all of that, too. There are the ice-up door locks and iced-over windshields, the slipping and falling, the shivering; the puffs of smoky breath and the croupy coughs from somewhere deep within the chest. There are the fogged windows and the icy roads; the white-out conditions and the snow blindness when the sun comes out again.
And then there are the teeth of winter.
The elders tell of it, the winter being that will feed upon you, body and spirit, if you are not careful, if you stray from the path.
If you let the greed in.
It was a way of reminding people of the importance of community, of cooperative and collaborative work, of sharing among ourselves so that no one should go without. It was a way of enforcing norms, proverb and fable and parable combined.
But it was real, too.
We are at our most vulnerable in the cold and the dark; evil has more hours to lurk, unseen, and work its mischief. But there is something that our people know about what hides in the cold, in the cold of the winter forest and in the cold of the human heart.
Cold makes you desperate. Cold makes you selfish. Cold makes you greedy. Cold makes you lonely, and lone, too.
When the temperatures fall below zero, we are warmer when we share body heat. Warmer, too, when we share food and fire.
Cold is a cannibal, and the cannibal is always cold. Always hungry. Always only the teeth of winter.
Go. Find another soul, another body with whom to share space and blanket, food and hearth. Sate your hunger among community.
Keep your teeth to yourself.
Keep winter’s teeth out in the sun, melting.