For A New Shade of Gray

We live in a place known for its varied shades of gray landscape, especially in January.  In fact, there are some transplants to the northwest who never do adjust to the lack of color four months out of the year and simply can’t take it.  I’m sure the native coastal peoples who lived through centuries of this weather had descriptive words for all the different types of gray mirrored in the background sky, the clouds, the bay, the mountains, the dead foliage, the bare trees, just as Eskimos have dozens of different words for snow.   But our English language just fails to do justice to Pacific Northwest environmental dingy drabness other than offer two alternative spellings for gray/grey.   The sky is gray and my hair is grey.   Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I’m Washington born and raised so I’m used to it.  Our children revel in it.  Too many days without rain and we start to get edgy, our skin starts to dry out and the webs between our toes start to regress.  The gray is essential to our emotional landscape.   It is so wonderfully …. predictable.

There does come a point in mid-January when a flash of color can be a welcome shock.  A blue jay is startling perched in the gray brown branches of a naked century old apple tree.  Holly berries and rose hips look almost garish.  I almost salivate when I realize we’re only a month or so away from the white of a snowdrop flower or the lavender of a spring crocus.  A mere two months brings us right into daffodil and grape hyacinth season and only three months will bring the overwhelming pink cloud of dogwood blossoms and the riotous rainbow of tulips in the Skagit Valley.  It soon will be a feast for the eyes too much to consume in one sitting.

So until then we are fasting here in the northwest, readying ourselves for the palette that is to come.  I will be content for the time being with the spectrum of pewter skies, the ashen clouds, the smoky foothills, the cinereous low land flood waters.   It is enough for now.  It is always enough.

Until I get really hungry for more.

For the Swing Back to Daylight

photo of the late afternoon full moon by Nate Gibson

I arrive at winter solstice today with a wistful deep sigh of relief.  True, three months of winter are ahead,  but the days will be lengthening as the darkness contracts.   Our home is not as far north as some, but our daylight this past week has felt so limited that when the sun does come out, I feel it is necessary to put on sunglasses to avoid a mole-like squint.

Still I cling to this swing gladly even if sometimes in the dark, my feet in the air, my muscles pumping me higher, the wind blowing my hair into my face.  It’s the ride I enjoy.

I appreciate the seasonal swings of light/dark, hot/cold, green/brown, alive/dead.  If I didn’t have the variance to anticipate, emulate and participate in, I would myself be too static, sitting too still on a swing that is stuck without movement or gladness.   A day like today tends to make me weepy~~I’ve made it through yet another cycle of dying back, and winter must be a restorative time.  This resting eventually prepares me for the overwhelming pace of spring and summer.   In fact, March through September is a bit too much light and during those months, I find myself longing for the early dark of December, if only to settle my nerves and calm my soul.

Even so, it is time for the swing to more light to return.  Seeing the moon rise at 3:30 PM is flat out disconcerting and not seeing a wisp of sunlight until 8:15 AM can be cause for concern for a worrier like me.  Will it never come?

I’m at the top of the swing arc, ready to glide back to the center, exhilarated and exhausted all at once.  The ride takes my breath away, but the air is crisp, cold, and generous.

And best of all, I can squint in the sunlight.