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Pelicans, Morro Bay, CA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Pelicans, Morro Bay, CA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

I’ve traveled between two countries and three states in the past two weeks, and fallen in love again with winter.

Not the slush.

Not all the car, truck and bus accidents we’ve encountered on this journey.

On an overcast afternoon, a sun break edged the Coastal Mountains with the faintest pink and a bold crease of gold.

The colors were so vivid amid the gray, that my heart swelled with gratitude for winter. On dark days this month, as we edged toward the solstice, I’ve kept that pink-gold moment shining in my memory.

I’ve been savoring moments like that all through December. Just when I’m feeling dragged down by the gloom, I catch a glimpse of the beauty of this season, and it changes my wintry mood.

My mom and I watched a flock of trumpeter swans lift in unison from a rain-soaked field in Canada, bringing elegance to a muddy scene.  My family watched every day for that flock — brilliant white against the spring-green field — and my heart lifted every time we shared that joy together.

I lost my breath for a second when two bald eagles flew so close to my brother’s truck that we could see their feathers, clearly outlined against a darkening sky. Another day, we spotted another flock of trumpeter swans, in another flooded pasture, pecking away at winter seeds.

My sister patiently explained these trumpeters got their name because of their loud call. (Who knew?)

We all caught our breath — and each other — when a mother white-tail and her fawn stepped in front of our car at dusk, stopping traffic in two directions as they timidly ventured across the road. Ah, British Columbia in winter …

Another day, I watched the first dense snow of the season settle on a windswept beach, chasing away all the dogs and their walkers. The Pacific Ocean looked frigid and dark, but was starkly beautiful against that pure white.

A big chunk of ice fell off the roof in the night, startling me awake. Then I laughed to remember that oh-so-Canadian ‘thunk‘, and settled back to sleep, content under a thick comforter.

The monochromatic landscape captures my imagination this time of year, away from the glare of urban lights. (Are they still called Christmas lights after the holiday is over?)

Pelicans huddling against the cold on a fishing shed reminded me why Morro Bay is one of our favorite places on the California coast.

Away from the black ice and freezing temps in Canada now, I’m enjoying winter even more keenly.  My neighbor’s red roses were wound tight in the cold when I returned home, yet I’m grateful for that brave little dash of color in our soggy neighborhood.

There’s a special kind of grateful for roses in winter.