Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Particular Kind of Gray

I’m back from vacation, two weeks with sun and sand on Maui.  I think if I lived somewhere warm I might have a whole brood of kids—no mittens, hats, snowsuits, even shoes become optional!  But since moving somewhere warm is not on the agenda any time soon, I’m dedicating this post to reflections on gray weather.

In Homer, Alaska we spend much of the year muddling through gray.  There are gray summers that may or may not be filled with rain, there are subzero gray winters where the clouds are too high to make snow, and other variations of gray which are often promising, but fail to deliver—as in this winter that has straddled rain and snow.  The roads have been deadly;  they have been ice slicks with coy snow on top that makes them appear safer than they actually are. We talk about the weather here not to pass the time, but because there’s a real uncertainty over how we will make it to and from our driveways: will they be too icy to drive up, or will be late to work digging out our cars? 

Today’s gray is a particular favorite of mine.  As I’m writing last night’s fresh snow is melting off the spruce, making the trees look deeply green.  The clouds are not so high that they make you feel bitter, nor are they so low and empty that you feel pressed against.  It’s a good day for writing.  A good day for skiing.  The way the green spruce looks against the snow is promising, even as the same melting snow turns the streets gray with dirt.  Today’s particular kind of gray brings rain and warmth and makes me hopeful that maybe we’ll have an early spring, though it’s not likely.

When new people come to town they inevitably ask about winter: is it always like this?  No.  Yes.  Every year seems to bring at least one season of relentless of gray, but what the gray brings always changes.  Last winter we had record snow fall.  This year, mostly ice.   I used to ache for flowers in February—that will never happen.  The long summer days are not in sight yet, but they’re closer.  There’s a wink of light when I get off work at 6pm, and that’s encouraging.  The sun is coming back,  if only to be obscured by clouds. And whether the summer is frustratingly gray or inexhaustibly sunny, the Fireweed will still push past our shoulders, the pushki above our heads. 

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