This week begins with the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a time that’s filled with nature’s handiwork—snow covered neighborhoods, icy streets, long cold nights, and short cloudy days.
Winter seems to draw something deeply personal from all of us. Everything looks, sounds, and feels different in the short dark days. Songwriters, composers, painters, and performers of all kinds across all times have shared their innermost experiences of the season in their works of art.
Whether from the depths of despair, profound personal reflection, or the excitement of nature’s silvery white wonder of snow, it’s what we sense beneath the surface that causes us to reflect this time of year.
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
~ Albert Camus
In van Gogh’s Landscape with Snow, yellow tufts of grass seem to be poking through the snow at the side of the road. While the mountains in the background are fully covered in snow, the foreground has blue, green, and brown puddles and slush left by melting snow. The painting seems to show the possible promise of spring.
Andy Williams sings of the good cheer of the happiest season of all in The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s song Let It Snow! is an upbeat viewpoint, sitting by a fire even when the weather outside is “frightful.” Check out this Michael Bublé recording.
Choreographer Bill T. Jones spoke with NPR in January 2014 about his understanding and interpretation of the meaning of Schubert’s Winterreise from the bleak standpoint of a solitary traveler in in a frozen winter.
Antonio Vivaldi’s last movement, “Winter,” from The Four Seasons opens with pizzicato strings. You can almost hear the “icy snow in biting, stinging winds” mentioned in the accompanying sonnet.
Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, performed here in a live Boston Pops performance conducted by John Williams, is one of the most delightful and often performed light orchestral additions to concerts this time of year. And here’s a 1958 vocal version performed by Johnny Mathis.
A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
~ Carl Reiner
The Magpie, Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.
~ Andrew Wyeth
Make a promise this winter to think with the openness of an artist. Spend more time listening and watching and feeling. It’s a great way to honor the slower, quieter rhythm of the season. What can you find in the cold, cloudy days and long, cold nights of winter?