Across the street the trees, blackened branches, cast stark shadows of themselves against the houses. Snow has come and gone and the cycle of freeze and thaw has set in. Only eighty-nine more days until Spring officially arrives. The instinct to burrow down and hibernate is strong. And yet, I found myself out walking through the pale afternoon sunlight in an attempt to shake off the dullness of the day.
The wind rises and falls as I walk. Turning east, then south and west, then north and finally east again until I am home. Two miles or so, and when the sun is on my face, warm enough. The wind drops the temperature a few degrees so that when I am walking into it I can feel the sting through my flannel shirt. Turning downwind, even the slight exertion of walking warms me up until I reach an equilibrium. Cars pass, dogs bark in distant yards, the withered leaves rustle in the brush. Winter is a time for truth. Nothing is hidden in this season.
I have been here for six years, returning to my origins after years on the road. I had thought that, especially in that first winter, with my single-season California wardrobe, digging out of snow drifts and skidding on icy roads in my two-wheel drive pick-up that I would never stay. Never say never. Two Subarus later, with heated seats, mirrors, all-wheel traction and an array of winter clothes courtesy of LL Bean and Duluth, I am ready for anything.
Still, there is a quiet beauty that settles over the landscape in early winter. The fields are mown, hay baled and stacked and as you cruise the country lanes your eye can wander to the horizon, something that the hedge and tree rows block in other seasons. The eye can penetrate the heart of the woods and you can look far up streams and rivers to see the quiet turnings that summer’s growth shields. Walking along streets on a weekday afternoon, I am privileged to see into the lives of other people. Yards, tidied for the season, the lawn furniture draped against the wind’s blast seem to reveal their owner’s secrets. No vine or bloom obscures the ornaments or sculptures that wait as silent sentinels in the beds of ivy. Bird feeders, topped up with seed lure the winter host of feathered creatures, while in the grass below them squirrels scavenge up the spillage.
Here in the northeast, the light seems different in winter. Perhaps it is only in this season that the winds blowing down out of Canada can push the Schmutz out to sea. The clear sky has a translucence that even the brightest summer day fails to create. Sunrise and sunset, for now so much closer together bring with them low clouds on the horizon. Mauve, gray, slate and pink, these skyward striations create a show for those who can look up from their dash boards and smart phones to enjoy them.
The season has just begun and we have yet to face the grim reality of blizzards and ice-storms. The need to don several layers of clothes just to go to the mailbox is still ahead of us. We will soon be treated to the panic-inducing tones of the TV weather-guessers as they ply us with warnings about the next polar vortex. Then, once the snows come the cameras will turn to the poor location reporters, measuring sticks in hand who will prognosticate on the dangers of walking, driving or simply existing in this part of the world.
As for me, I can look out past my IMAC and watch the shadows play, and if the weather is too terrible conjure up a story that smells of fresh limes and tropical breezes.
My latest novel: Revenge of the Dragon Lady and all my other titles are available at Amazon.com.