The Shape of Winter

February 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

The shape of winter in a city takes its fluidity and form from a hundred subtle cues.  Slanting lines of snow are abruptly bisected by the appearance of roof and wall.  The maintenance men are motion and darkness in their tough winter coats and beards shivered with frost, their machines flinging out the snow in arching parabolas that pull the eyes and spirit higher, breaking the hypnotizing fall that is the tell of winter.  After the storms have begun to whirl, they will turn the black city fences with their spiky posts into tracings of angle and bar, mounded at their tops in mimicry of the gray sky above them.  Thick crystal icicles drip in winter’s direction, downward past the glass fronts of coffee shops and convenient stores, uncoupling the blocks of writing on their windows until one reads unfortunate and vaguely Latin phrases: “SPECI S TO Y CLAM C WDE” and “LOTT Y TI ETS H RE”.  The space and design of the city takes on a meaning of new importance, as the snow piles higher and wider, and forces the inhabitants into unheard-of proximity; a quickstep shuffle past a confluence of unsavory loiterers will suddenly skirt the edge of an embarrassing skid on ice or a fall into ridged and dirty snow. Out past the city limits, where one can find a frozen stream cutting through any copse of trees, the rhythmic slash of blades on ice shines as a deeper counterpart to the skaters’ motion.  The little boys tumble and run, darting in and out and frustrating the little girls, who prefer to add their foundation blocks to winter in the shapes of twirls and shy attempts at womanly grace.  The older boys and girls have often found themselves racing the moon, hand in hand and rosy-cheeked more with love than cold, surfacing at the night’s end as if from underwater, with an especial awareness of the air around them.  If one were able to hover in the sky high above the city and the skaters, their reward for such a reckless and daring maneuver in the heart of winter would be found in the joyful view of civilization and repetition: the city alive, pulsing with warmth and movement, its bulk highlighting the line of the white river that is displayed again in the curve of the children skating along in a row and once again in the flutter of colored scarves streaming out behind them, giving one a sense of nature collapsing slowly into miniature.  Back down upon the sidewalk, the light and shadow that so often play a part in the art of the city disappear beneath a leaden sky as another flurrying storm begins.  When the air is white with falling snow and moving through it is a challenge to something deeper than motion, the architecture of winter is displayed, drawing the heart ever onward, seeking in human nature’s contrary way the ability to rise again.

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