By the end of January, the world is defined in monochrome. The streets are charcoal and cracked; the snowbanks no longer virginal white but slushy and black with carbon and debris. Homes, from the venable single-family to the time honoured triple-decker are weathered and painted, it seems, to blend in with the skies. People too, as they hurry on their way, bundled against the piercing winds and frozen air, are washed out; pallid skin wrapped in coats, hats, and scarves that blend in with their surroundings.
The homeless huddle together for warmth in doorways downtown, bodies tangled and twisted, a mass with more arms and legs than can reasonably be counted. The scent of stale, cheap liquor is carried away on the winds.
And the wind itself is an ever present, relentless animal, roaring down city streets with teeth made of knives, rending exposed flesh to the bone. Even in moments of calm, simply taking a breath of the icy air is like inviting frostbite to your lungs. It tastes metallic and smells of snow.
In the darkest of these winter nights, birds freeze on limbs and wires, and the unsheltered homeless perish, unnoticed, alongside them.
This is the season of hibernation and death. It is bleak, dystopian, and ultimately – necessary. With it, we learn to see monochrome as a thousand, million, nuanced shades and tones that are beautiful. And just when our eyes have adapted to see those multitudes of glittering greys, blacks, whites, silver, and sparkling clear jewel tones…spring comes and with it – a blinding, beautiful explosion of colour that we would never see had we not become colour blind for those unending bitter months.
In this season, we also find it in ourselves to keep moving forward, in spite of the animal wind or hissing snow or hidden ice. We slip, but we learn to rise again and keep moving onward. While the wind tears at our skin and freezes our tears to our face, we defy it at each turn, growing stronger because of it and carrying that strength with us throughout the rest of the year.
I sit here at the beach, where the country ends and the world begins, reflecting on all of this. At first glance, it is impossible to tell where sea and sky end and begin, both being the same uniform shade of slate grey and as texture-less as glass. Even the snow falling, blanketing the beach, lands silently on the water and leaves no mark of its passing.
I finally turn my mind to the monochrome beauty and begin to find, here and there, ripples in sky and sea. Texture is there if you look closely – adding an untold beauty to the canvas that is this winter world. Then I hear it, quietly, at the edge of hearing really…a milky, lapping sound – thick and musical. It’s the water kissing the land gently, under the veil of snow which is now glittering brighter than the stars starting to appear in a sky that is suddenly and quickly fading from grey to black.
This is my winter. This is my place. A land of death and hidden life; of muck and mire and beauty; of ice and snow and wind…
Phe Needham is an emerging writer and artist from Boston, MA. She has had her poetry published in Consequence Magazine, The Drunken Boat online literary magazine, and MassPoetry.org.
A combat veteran, Phe healed through art and writing and is active in online writing groups, writing poetry, prose, and short fiction in her free time; and she continues to work full time for the US Air Force. She hopes to return to school at some point in the future in order to get her degree in creative writing.