Adams County, PennsylvaniaThe scent of wood smoke, the thickness of it pouring out from the houses. Breath hanging heavy in the air. Me, six-years-old, with my whole family sleeping in the living room next to the fireplace because we ran out of oil for the furnace. Building nests out of colorful, crocheted blankets. Hand-me-down sweaters and dolls with long tangled hair and a small television set with wobbly antennas. A puffy pink snowsuit, scratchy mittens. Tracking across the frozen pond, racing down hill after hill on a cracked green sled.
Wide white eeriness of winter night. Sharpness of stars, the moon sliding over the untouched snow. Eleven-years-old and humming a haunting, minor key spiritual under my breath. Getting older, patterns emerging. This is what happens to me when the seasons change. Learning to fear these months but never quite able to hate them.
Going away to college, watching the seasons change in a different place. Running along the Charles in the early dark. Aerial landscapes carved into the frozen river, cold puddles on the paved path shining like oil slicks in the reflected city light—headlights and traffic lights and streetlights, lights of buildings and lights of bridges. Here, at night, winter glows.The poignance of winter coats, of all of the people in the streets protecting themselves. A first city Christmas, pushing my way through the bustling sidewalks on a Saturday, trying to decide what to bring home as gifts. Pressing through the crowds at a tree lighting: artifice and materialism and just a hint of magic.
The second year. A man standing on a pile of snow, bent over at the waist to pay the parking meter. Brick sidewalks topple over themselves, cheap wooden partitions warp and twist away from the relentless heaps of snow. Snow as fear, snow as dire warning, snow as a white wolf following you home. Grunt of snowplows, filthy trolley track snow.
Coldest day of the year so far, cold as silver, God-cold, the sharp, narrow geometry of it. The cold white morning bland in your mouth. Gray smoke strung up against the sky. This’ll kill you if you let it. No doubt about it. No question.
Visiting home. Frozen fields scalped and raked over, acre after acre of raw, naked sod. The faint smell of smoke, of charred rubber from blackened tires, lingering around the deep orchard pits where they burned the old bulldozed trees. The loudness of snow melting, which runs down over the leaf cover, dropping from bare branches in clumps and shattering over the narrow mountain road.
The strange marvel of the silence against which it falls.
All photos belong to author