The Subtle Beauty of Winter

by Alex Donahue


low dark clouds over grey oceanI sit in a old purple Crazy Creek, faded from years of summer sun. In juxtaposition, it creaks against the packed down snow and I shiver. The chill of the frozen ground permeates my pants as I curl inwards, looking out at the dim scene before me. Although the snow frosted trees create an almost gingerbread-house like scene, swarths of dark clouds press down on the muddy flats and chilly grey ocean, making the landscape before me as unappetizing as saying goodbye to a good friend. Seaweed lies along the coast as if flung from the hands of an angry sea monster and the ocean seems like a lifeless expanse of grey tundra. All I see are shades of brown and grey and the muted coastline seems so wintry, so lifeless, so depressing.

There’s snow in my boots — hard pieces of ice are packed in from the long walk spent tromping through the woods attempting to avoid the cross country ski tracks. My feet dampen and freeze as my body heat melts the ice. I look down and notice that my hands are ruddy and raw as I begin to lose feeling in the tips of my fingers. The wind blows relentlessly, brushing delicate ripples onto the surface of the sea.

Then it begins to snow. Lightly at first, gentle flakes whisper their way to the ground. I stop all movement and listen. The sounds of creaking, snow laden branches, the lapping of the ocean, and the murmur of falling flakes fill my ears. Snow swishes down and makes a thin layer of pure and gentle whiteness over everything, natures way of erasing the past and creating a magnificent new beginning.

I begin to forget about my cold feet and numb hands and instead focus more on the nuances of the nature around me. The point is alive, vibrating and vivacious with the inner workings of natural life. The chill of winter has frozen the place where the ocean acquaints itself with the shore, forming a slab of crust frozen enough to walk on. Indentations in the snow beside me that I’d previously written off as places where snow had haphazardly fallen take the shape of delicate hoof prints perhaps from a hurried deer or a wayward raccoon. Trees that I first thought of as skinny and naked now seem strong and steely. In my mind they are winter warriors fighting against the brutal elements.

Everything seems to take on a certain beauty; it’s not the typical glow of a sunset or view from the top of a mountain but instead has that raw and chiseled look that defines winter in Maine. The sky is a slab of slate, reflected by the ocean. Trees stretch their arms towards the heavens. Wind blows and once again my body tightens but this time I am ready. Much like the trees and the rocks and the seaweed and the snow I brace myself and stay in place.

This time I observe and realize. The harsh cold that ushers in the season of winter itself has the power to carve a landscape. It freezes ponds, darkens skies, whitens grounds and undresses trees. Winter stripes the sky with glorious purples and pinks, sucks the warmth out of an environment and replaces that warmth with a new yearning and appreciation for flames, glowing coals, and dying embers. Venturing into the cold becomes less appetizing and therefore more satisfying. Nature rewards you for your effort with its beautiful, frozen scenery. So with the utter strength and beauty that winter gifted us in mind, I turn and head home though the falling snow, blowing wind, and, steely forest.

Alex_Donahue_subtle_winter

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