There are gifts of winter that are sacred. When I lived in New England, it was crunching over fresh-fallen snow, the kind of snow that smelled of ozone and renewed the world.
Here in the Sonoran desert, two gifts appeared this afternoon. One was a songbird, happy to be at the end of his migration. Our birds arrive in winter and remind us that there are birds other than pigeons and grackles.
The other winter gift is my favorite. The first orange on the tree turned fragrant today. The oranges are early this year, and for the last few weeks, I’ve watched them turned bright from the navel up. But today, as I sniffed at one, I got the first whiff of real orange. Not the neroli scent of the blossoms, but the rich floral fragrance mixed with a bit of zest and a bit of bitter peel. You won’t ever smell it in a grocery store. The ones in stores are picked long before they are ripe.
These oranges, picked, lose the incredible fragrance within hours. But from now until the end of December, every day I will go out and inhale that smell that makes me glad to be alive. It’s a gift.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who lives in the Sonoran Desert.