In the Bleak Midwinter

A wrought iron gate set against a frozen, snowy landscape

I’ve been thinking about “In the Bleak Midwinter” since Exhibit A named it as a prompt a few days ago. This carol has always resonated with me, particularly the first paragraph. Predictably, the resonance of this song made me want to write about it. But unlike other times when I have almost relished the chance to probe my own discomforts, I’ve balked every time I sat down.

I began three different stories but stopped them all. I started two different essays, but stopped those as well. At first, I didn’t know why. This prompt is clearly sparking a lot, but I’ve stopped myself every time I’ve started something. And there’s a reason for that. I usually write to understand. I rarely write something if I already know how it ends, or understand the mechanisms behind the feeling or thought. In this case, I do understand why this piece resonates with me, and the reason for it feels intensely personal in ways that are hard to communicate.

A while ago, I posted the image above. This snowy gate resonates, for me, in the same way Christina Rossetti’s lyrics do. To me, it is a perfect visual metaphor – not of frigidity, as someone reasonably suggested, but of me.

Just to be clear, I’m definitely not frigid. I take great joy in my sexuality and in sharing it with my partners. I’m also not emotionally frigid. While I am, admittedly, guarded and very cautious, I love deeply and without reservation. Once I love you, I love you and I always will. But there is a part of me, very deep in the landscape of my upbringing and experience, that feels like this:

In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

Long ago.

This isn’t a mournful thing to me. It’s actually quite beautiful and quiet and serene. Going back to the image, it’s as if there is a gate, but the gate can be gotten around. The landscape is cold, but it’s varied and thriving and full beneath the snow. But it is silent. And contemplative. And the gate is there for a reason. This isn’t meant to sound self-indulgent, and I’m certainly not glamorizing the fact that, very deep inside me, tender, fragile things are frozen, resting beneath a protective layer of snow.

But for all that, I am not cold. I am not a cold person. I struggle with passions and feelings that sometimes feel too heated to be entirely healthy. The curious thing, to me anyway, is that this landscape co-exists with that heat. It’s my foundation, in a way.

I have never known it not to be midwinter, and for midwinter not to be just a part of who I am. Unlike the song though, it isn’t a bleak thing. It’s the quiet that I sometimes need and the solitude I sometimes crave. At this point, the idea of the season changing and thawing the frosty wind and the hard iron earth is slightly terrifying. I have no idea if this gate and the snowy landscape will always remain. I don’t know if part of me will always rest in a midwinter from long ago.

What I do know is that I love and feel in spite of the coldness and, in some ways, because of it. I feel every day, how easy it would be to detach and stay in that quiet, safe, frozen place, and every day I choose to engage and love and laugh and find joy in everything I possibly can, and I’m grateful for anything and everyone who gives me an opportunity to do so. Without that landscape inside of me, I wouldn’t know how very lucky and alive I am.

My response to this carol is super rough and underdeveloped. It’s also not erotic, hot or even the tiniest bit sexy. There’s a great deal more I would like to write, but I’m afraid that, if I started working on it, I’d edit myself out of what I’ve just said. So I’m leaving it alone, which is almost comically hard for a compulsive editor like me. You should see me squirming on the hook 🙂

But, since you can’t, I’m going to suggest you check out the other entries in Exhibit A’s Awesome Christmas Erotica Meme. (How’s that for a segue way?!).  A new song title goes up every day between now and Christmas so click here to catch the prompts and participate (you should!). And click here to see who else is making merry this December.


  1. You have said things in this piece that now that I have read it express part of me too. This song has always been the Christmas song that I have found the most beautiful but I have never found the words for why.

    Midwinter is as much a part of the joy and energy of the cycle of life as any other season. Without it, the other seasons gradually deplete the reserves.


    1. Thank you so much, Honey. What you said about midwinter being part of nature’s cyclical energy is perfect. I’ve always felt that the emotional / spiritual hibernation that comes around this time of year makes engaging during the rest possible. Xxxxxxxxx

    2. This is beautiful, Honey: “Midwinter is as much a part of the joy and energy of the cycle of life as any other season. Without it, the other seasons gradually deplete the reserves.” So wise.

      Malin, I’m so grateful I’m not the only one who thinks on the page — both with starts and stops of various stories and essays. Even when posting work you deem “super rough and underdeveloped,” your intelligence shines through.

      1. Thank you so much, Melina. That’s lovely of you to say. As for thinking on the page, you are definitely not the only one! I have no idea what I’d do if I couldn’t figure things out on the page! xx

  2. That resonates with me. From my perspective, I feel there is a sense within my self similar, that I refer to as part of my paradoxical nature, and the feeling inside is often one of “holding the tension of the opposites” (to use a Jungian phrase).
    Thanks, I appreciated reading this.

    1. Ah, yes – that’s exactly it. It is “holding the tension of opposites”. Finding and maintaining that balance can be quite a challenge, but for all that, I’ve gotten pretty fond of my own paradoxical nature. Thank you so much for reading and for the comment – you gave me words I wish I’d had yesterday!

  3. How absolutely beautiful. I also find the imagery compelling – in fact, I’ll be hiking through a (hopefully) snowy forest next week and I anticipate that serene silence, so different from summer hiking with all the insect, bird and animal life.

    I’ve never thought of our emotional landscape as corresponding to nature but it’s actually a dead-on metaphor.A great way to look at the need for quiet and solitude.

    1. Thank you, Valerie. It’s a hard thing to explain in a way that doesn’t make that need for quiet and solitude sound desolate…unless you’re talking to a person who also feels the need for quiet and solitude. I hope your hike is wonderful – it sounds like the perfect thing right now.

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