Sitting in front of a fire battling with the enveloping, bitter cold, winterís presence only seems to grow stronger and stronger with each drip of the pipe hitting the metal sink in a slow, steady rhythm. It bites, yet so kindly gives way to warm embraces and hot drinks after a potato heavy meal and homemade bread. It stifles, but the Valley sun and its great relief makes it a little easier to breathe and to watch the essence of life linger in a simple exhale. It is the cold, and it always ends and is almost forgotten before the sun drops low and the late autumn sunsets electrify once again.
One of winterís gifts comes twofold; it is the good, the bad and possibly peculiar and most coincidental. The gift is the annual reintroduction of a mighty sock collection and its upkeep added to the list of living in the coldest place in America survival chores. Suddenly, they appear from the bottom of the drawers, the secret closet stashes and the store sale bin in numbers that rally a weekís worth of summer attire. They pile up after a hard dayís work keeping one through 10 warm, and they eventually demand their turn in the washing machine, a cozy tumble dry and, finally, a partner to curl up with before being placed into a dark box for such a short time. The socks of winter, especially this winter, are earning their keep, and keeping more than just the feet unfrozen.
Two pairs of knitted wool socks keep winterís icy touch at bay, and offer up a hundred columns worth of stories. They came from the hands of two very different women both living in Spain, but without any blood ties to the land. Barbara was an American deported to Switzerland at 44 years old after living in the country since infancy for growing marijuana in Washington State and, after quite a journey, found a place to work the Alpujarran countryside. Olga was a Russian bride promised to a Spaniard who longed for the great cities of the north and spent most of her days cooking in a plush robe and stiletto heals. Somewhere in the midst of their respective practices, they found time to knit wool socks.
Today, a few years later, those socks mean more than they ever could on a temperate January day along the Costa del Sol. Itís almost criminal to think about after taking negative 30 degree temperatures for weeks now. Why were these women knitting wool socks when they could have been stitching sundresses or skirts or a brilliant summer scarf? Did they realize then how lovely it is now to slip them on and into a boot while thinking about what it is Barbara and Olga are doing today?
The ladies are probably warm and knitting wool socks for toes that more often find pleasure in the beach sands instead of between layers of fleece. Those who receive, however, should take and proceed with caution. Seems the stifling and biting cold can show back up because it was always lingering between the palms and the flowers. Sitting in front of this fire, listening to pipe dripping, thinking about two friends with warm feet makes it fine because in a few months it will end until it begins again. The piles of socks always emerge after watching the sun fall far in the south, submitting to a red, orange and blue sky, and bring back memories that should never be forgotten.