The month of January is finally, blissfully gone, although, like an inconsiderate house guest, she has left messy reminders here in middle Tennessee. Snow still covers our yard; a little slush clings here and there on the more shaded roads; we are still not quite in normal routine (with schools finally going back 2 hours late today); and we are dreading the utility bill when it arrives in another week or so.

 “Hate” is a strong word that I rarely use, but I pretty much hate January. (OK, the beautiful images on display above contradict that statement, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Never mind that I actually like thinking back on the past year and making resolutions for the new one. Never mind that several relatives and friends have January birthdays. Never mind that I love any excuse to stretch out on the sofa with a blanket and a good book. None of that is worth the cold and the mess and the short days and, most of all, the lack of energy and enthusiasm that I always feel during this month.

Colette felt like I do: “January, month of empty pockets! … let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer’s forehead.”

I try to make it through the month by focusing on “a time for all seasons,” as modeled in Ecclesiastes. That is, there’s a time to lie on the sofa and read; there’s a time to get up and ride your bike. There’s a time to lie on the sofa and watch old movies; there’s a time to clean the house. There’s a time to lie on the sofa and take a nap; there’s a time to organize fifteen years of photos and start a new scrapbooking project.

You, dear and astute reader, undoubtedly get it: I am sloth in January.

A couple of weeks of being slothful is OK, probably even quite good for the soul. But as the month goes on, I get sick of being slothful – and yet, I can’t seem to do anything about it. I’m stuck – on the sofa, of course – just waiting for the month to pass.

But this January was a tee-niny bit different. I wasn’t particularly excited about the big winter storm as it hit. The snow didn’t seem that pretty as it was falling on Friday; the quite-impressive-for-this-part-of-the-country depths and drifts hardly phased me on Saturday. But on Sunday, the sun came out, and my outlook changed. 

All of nature was sheathed in ice that sparkled like the brightest diamonds. I couldn’t keep my eyes out of the tree branches. I fixed myself a good breakfast (I’m not the best cook, but I make a great omelette) and then bundled up and went outside, camera in hand. While I usually hurry to get out of the cold, on this day I took my time. I studied the ice-encapsulated buds on the cherry blossom and dogwood trees; I delighted in dozens of birds flocking to a neighbor’s feeder in a Christmas-card-perfect scene; I laughed at a snowman some creative soul had built in the back of a pickup truck. After I had walked around the block and was back in front of my house, I realized – with some astonishment – I wasn’t ready to go in. So I walked another direction, down by the river, where there was more beautiful scenery. As the day warmed, ice began to plink more and more rapidly from the trees and power lines until I decided it was time to head back home, if for no other reason than I needed protective head gear. Days later, the peace and joy of my winter walk is still with me.

When I first started this article, I entitled it “A Bit of Redemption for January.” On Sunday when I finished my walk, I thought January had earned its redemption with this unexpected day of beauty.  A few days later, I realize the age-old truth –  the need for redemption was mine – and I give thanks for all seasons and for every day that I take the time simply to be.