The long haul is here. The days are cold, too cold and windy for good dog walks, gardening, anything really. The nights are frigid, too frigid for standing in awe of the starry universe. The short hours of daylight, and don’t try to convince yourself otherwise, yes the days are getting longer but they are still short – the short hours of daylight pass interminably in the dark gleam of overcast skies and no end in sight.
The house creaks and bangs in the shifts from cold to exceedingly cold. I can hear my neighbor’s back door slam in the hyperlucid air. The dogs bark each time. Shivering a little at my observation post at the window, I think dark thoughts about wearing their warm furs as a cloak. That would stop the barking.
Sirens blast through the city more or less constantly. January is the season of emergencies. Fires burn hotter, car accidents shatter windshields and bones more spectacularly, the cold makes the emergency greater, the response itself dangerous.
The WideEyedSpouse and I have inhabited Northern Cities by chance and happenstance for thirteen of our twenty years of marriage. None have bested the grim, dark, endurance trial that is Buffalo for sheer misery. The windows of abandoned houses and factories stare into the darkling days and pink-light nights. Heatless, roofless, they are havens for the desperately poor. The dreams of a new generation of city-builders are lost under heaps and mounds of poorly plowed snow, rock salt encrustations, and the skittering drifts of wind-blown trash. Hundred thousand dollar Mercedes purr warmly past layered heaps of used clothes that are people waiting for buses. The contrasts are starker without the greenling veneer of temperate spring and summer, or golden fall.
Maybe it’s me.
Maybe tomorrow I should strap on my Wisconsin-bought ice skates, don my Minnesota-cold furry hat and glide in circles on the new canal-side rink. Maybe I should make snow angels, feed and water some hungry birds. Maybe on the gloomiest and coldest of days I should make donations to the heating assistance fund, the electricity assistance fund, the food cupboard and hope that I’ve helped others get through.
Maybe I should rejoice in the long quiet that is a Northern City Winter and find peace.