Reviews: Books & Film, Spiritual Scribbles
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The Sting of Winter

To take the sting out of winter, I turn to Sting. It’s kind of homeopathic, an approach to healing that prescribes a remedy to mirror the malady. If you’ve got a sour stomach, then eat something sour, that sort of thing. During the winter season, listening to Sting seems to be some sort of musical homeopathic treatement for the weirdness and wonder of the wide range of the winter mood.

Winter is a season of contrasts, when things get dark and contemplative yet at the same time it’s paradoxically festive. One might as easily brood in a corner chair, nursing another glass of cognac, or one might just as easily find that a random group of smiling strangers is standing on the stoop, in the icy cold solely for the purpose of belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I find that Sting’s music contains a similar contrast. It isn’t easy for an artist to capture that kind of range, but Sting has a way with the minor key and an ability to turn our winter blue moods into moments of contemplation. Winter often brings a certain sort of sadness, a melancholic mood, or even the kind of fatigue that can buckle the spirit.

Mercury falling 
I rise from my bed 
Collect my thoughts together 
I have to hold my head 
It seems that she’s gone 
And somehow I am pinned by 
The hounds of winter 
Howling in the wind

Such experiences can be cold, I think, or warm, depending on one’s own disposition and perspective. From one perspective it can be bleak. Consider the perspective of standing outside on a street corner on a cold night in a strange place as you try to squint, staring past the dim lamp light into unfamiliar darkness.

I walk through the day 
My coat around my ears 
I look for my companion 
I have to dry my tears 
It seems that she’s gone 
Leaving me too soon 
I’m as dark as December 
I’m as cold as the man in the moon

Yet there is a warm perspective: you find yourself in a room, mostly dark, with the exception being your little area of light, sitting in front of a fire with a blanket that you set aside long ago because the fire has been burning for a very long time and it now immerses you and permeates every corner of the room. When the darkness surrounds you there, it’s contemplative, perhaps cozy even. It’s a place to ponder, to wax poetic, to think, or perhaps just sit and feel.

A season for joy 
A season for sorrow 
Where she’s gone 
I will surely, surely follow 
She brightened my day 
She warmed the coldest night 
The hounds of winter 
They got me in their sights

A few moments from my own highlight reel:

“The Hounds of Winter” was originally recorded on the album Mercury Falling. I’ve been scattering the lyrics in this post — here’s the refrain:

I still see her face 
As beautiful as day 
It’s easy to remember 
Remember my love that way 
All I hear is that lonesome sound 
The hounds of winter 
They follow me down

There’s one line from his song A Thousand Years that stays with me. When he lets his voice linger, the words “I still love you” seem to linger, to hang, like the sensation that the frost in the air, like watching yourself breath white clouds on a winter’s morning:

I could speak a million lies, a million songs,
A million rights, a million wrongs in this balance of time
But if there was a single truth, a single light
A single thought, a singular touch of grace
Then following this single point, this single flame,
This single haunted memory of your face
I still love you
I still want you

A Thousand Years

Sting’s Album If On A Winter’s Night is a personal fave. It captures the full spectrum, from bleak and contemplative through the cheerful merry-making of the holidays. The songs at times alternate back and forth, as they do for the first 3 songs of the album. 

Then there’s that weird paradox about winter, that it’s also a time to party, which, in one sense might be a little fucked up.

In another sense, though, it’s less fucked, I suppose, because with all that pondering in process one might need to blow off a little steam or at least share some space for feasting with friends.

Whatever the case, we celebrate, and when we celebrate it’s a contradiction, but it’s also human. Human existence itself is a paradox, and so if you’re going to be a paradoxical human, then you might want to dance and revel in it for a bit.

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