Wake Up Call: Winter Has Come

Potemkin Steps in Odesa Ukraine (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt

Winter has come to planet Earth.

As I write, snow is falling outside and the temperature is plummeting. But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about the freezing, unforgiving specter of war.

It should be clear — as clear as ice — that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has succeeded in sorely pelting the rest of the world with its unrelenting hardness and its bone-chilling gale of carnage.

Kyiv Ukraine (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

This is not the only war in our times. It is not the only conflict that has made violence and horror the rule of the day. However, this incursion has made much of the world wake up and even lurch into unprecedented action.

It would be easier to stay under the covers while the snow flies. But that is not what is happening as the Western countries gear up. Is it enough?

Faded flower from somewhere in Ukraine

I visited Ukraine many years ago. I stood on a bridge overlooking the Dnieper River with Kyiv spread out on both sides, gleaming in the sun.

I stood in a wheat field in Ukraine’s heartland and watched the breeze make the land look like a gently-shifting sea of gold. I still have a flower I picked that day in the wheat field taped into my scrapbook. It is so much more faded now than ever before.

I climbed the Potemkin Steps in Odesa, on the Black Sea, and walked the city streets, young couples passing by, arm-in-arm, apparently deep in love. I stopped off at a shop for an ice cream cone and felt the warmth of a summer day on my face, perfumed by the sea air.

These are now the long-gone dreams of a tourist as artillery fire ruins buildings and lives in Ukraine, refugees fleeing their homes with just what they can carry in a desperate bid to survive.

Forget the make-believe baloney of violent entertainment like Game of Thrones. This isn’t a show. This also isn’t an argument about wearing a mask against a disease, or what books should be in school libraries. 

This war is like a pandemic, shaking complacency to the core. But this “pandemic” is about the life and death of our entire planet as the Russian leader says he is poised with his finger on the nuclear button. 

I can say it, even shout it — “No War!” — but this must be a cry every person on Earth must take up in order to make it true.

Meanwhile, the coldness of winter creeps around the globe with a mean, ferocious, and calculated harshness.

I’m afraid that it doesn’t just start and stop with Ukraine.

So far, it enters our homes through our TV, computer, pad, and phone screens. But keep your eye on the back door while you’re watching the news — and help your neighbor do the same, even if they live thousands of miles away.

This icy specter is circling the planet like a blizzard, looking for every crack it can push through.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins.


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