In November, long before the Winter Solstice, we will experience the first of many “gray days.” The trees now bare, having shed their leaves, draw charcoal lines across an infinite sky of nothingness.
Gray is considered to lie exactly between white and black and is actually called “achromatic,” which is a contradiction in terms – to have a colorless color? It has also been described as refracting light without spectral color separation, or as having zero saturation and no hue. And while we might struggle to find words to convey the absence of something, there are certainly plenty to describe the feelings that are aroused by these gray days.
As if they may be called “days,” residing, instead, somewhere between the light of day and darkness of night, a sort of twilight time. An extended boundary between the birth and death of a day.
Simply stated, these gray days are depressing. But that word is far too vague to instill a true sensory perception. Drab, ashen, somber, leaden, stone cold, cineritious, favillous, worn, anemic, pasty, melancholic, sallow, blah, sullied, faded, dreary, muted, gloomy, caliginous, tenebrous, bleak, washed out, dismal, and uninspired.
These are the days that suck the spirit right out of you. Drab, as in lacking brightness; somber, as in humorless; leaden, as in a weight too heavy to bear; ashen, as in the color of death. And they come, one after the other, after the other . . . trampling the psyche.
Uninspired. Cold. Despairing. Why would one bother exiting a warm, soft bed on such a day? The coffee will taste burnt. Cream putrid. The muffin, singed. Butter rancid. Life pales when Grandfather Sun fades, when he retreats to the southern hemisphere.
The winter months are described symbolically as representing death before the season of rebirth – spring. But there is surely beauty lying within the bleak, even if buried or hibernating in the heart.
It can be unveiled in the snow. Crystalline water sparkling like diamonds.
It’s exhibited in the cedars. Their healing ever-green luminescence. Their balsamic, terpenic perfume.
It’s manifest with the birds. Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Chickadees, and Finches, even in their winter cloaks, radiate brilliant color and warmth. They hang in the branches like dazzling ornaments on a Christmas Tree.
It’s uncovered when a doe emerges from her winter bed with her fawns. Shy and diminutive, alluring brown eyes, graceful as they glide over the snow-covered terrain.
Even the cold, biting wind on these days has balmy stories to tell. If we listen. It whispers the legends of wolves on the hunt, devouring their prey to feed the fire burning in their bones. It speaks of the silent flight of the Owl through the forest. Their yellow eyes of the night, penetrating the hidden aspects of the soul. Their tufted ears, hearing with clairvoyance. They see and hear all. You cannot hide.
The gray is really a dreamscape. A blank canvass upon which our minds may paint surrealistic animations. Silhouettes of structures. Wild beasts and sensuous lovers. Warm glows emanating from woodstoves and candle light. Reflections as old as time.
This artistry, this imagery, burns brightly in our consciousness. A fire in our hearts that can never be extinguished. We are the keepers of this eternal flame.
As Thoreau observed:
“There is a slumbering subterranean fire in nature which never goes out, and which no cold can chill…. This subterranean fire has its altar in each [person’s] breast, for in the coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveler cherishes a warmer fire within the folds of [their] cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A healthy [person], indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in [their] heart.”
Yes, why would someone roust themselves from their slumbers on such a bleak, gray day? To write about it, of course . . .
Photo: I caught this scene early one December morning. The humidity and cold created “ice fog.” This fog lifts, having painted the trees with a coating of ice. The ice lasted about fifteen minutes before the air had become warm enough to melt it. The world of images, ever transient.
** If you are wondering about the bracketed words in the quote, I replaced all of the male oriented pronouns with gender neutral ones. The writers of old, while quite eloquent, often wrote as though women didn’t exist. I don’t particularly care for that.