A Time to Build

One winter morning, a school day dawned to reveal a large snow bear occupying our front lawn. A late, heavy snow had inspired my parents to get busy building while the kids were asleep.

The ursine form was the talk of the block as neighborhood kids trudged to the bus stop. Long after the sculpture had melted into “a patch of old snow,” the bear’s fleeting existence lingers, a flake in the blizzard of images from childhood.

“You build your own life.”

So said a biographer in a recent interview about his latest publication. He was referring to plotting a course early on by reading the books that build a lifetime storehouse of personal knowledge.

Fashioning a solid foundation after the fact is so much more difficult (although I did once meet a white-haired man who dug a basement under his historical Birmingham home — after it had been built).

Winter offers us a chance to play catch-up and patch flaws in our foundation. This is the quiet season, if there is such a thing anymore.

When the deep freeze takes our landscape down to ground level, we’re left with a visual clean slate. And after the rush of the holidays fades, we’ve got a long winter’s night of opportunity.

At home, sealed away from outside distractions, we can build — or rebuild — our lives. Time to make something of ourselves — and our dwellings. Time to build something for posterity: a library, a piece of furniture, a collection, our minds, a family, and, yes, memories that swirl about us like so many snowflakes.

The same weather that induces hibernation for our fellow beasts is a wake-up call for us. Crisp air so frigid it stiffens hairs and tingles on the way in is akin to a splash of cold water taking us eyes wide open in to a new year.

Seasons change — in all senses, including trends. Interior designers report that more and more clients are requesting American-made pieces for their homes. Call it putting your money where your life is.

It’s an investment not unlike the spring-blooming bulbs that we tucked into the soil last fall as an insurance policy for future brilliance.

While tulips and crocuses quietly prepare to push toward the sky, we would do well to build our forward motion. Live in hibernation and we run the risk of waking, only to realize too late what happened while we were sleeping.

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