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We Wear The Winter As the Winter Wears Us

Lois Hurley
Winter Begins

Most of us here in New Hampshire saw our first snowflakes of the year this week.  It's a gentle reminder that winter is on its way.  On this holiday that for many of us kicks off a frenzied season of shopping and parties, NHPR's Sean Hurley pauses to reflect on what it means as winter rolls in.

Winter comes in like a winter coat. Down from the storage closet to hang in the dark front hall to wait by the door. 

As the leaves blaze out and drop and the earth colors fade even the house color fades and the sky grows dark and bright. When the trees are all sticks, the little everywhere of the fallen leaves make an early rhyme of the winter to come.  Theirs is the first kind of blanket that we see. A battlefield of brown and scattered letters that nick and scuffle and blow off but never away.  

Winter comes in like an old creeping sea. When the first snow falls we pull on our jackets like life vests.  Our boots are rowboats and we're stranded on white beaches. The woods and the mountains we walked are now islands in the distance. The trees whine and clap together like the masts of our abandoned ships.  

No one can paint the gesso'd canvas of the land. We scrape it down to the bone of the road and the glass eye of our windshields. We are more our eyes and cold skin.  We are far more looking, far less seen. 

From high above it might look like we've gone away.  Our cars and footsteps almost silent. The snow absorbs the sounds and removes the noise. The snow reflects the light and removes the shadows.  The snow is not just heavy on the land. There is less to know and less to remember.

It is a bright and quiet courtyard and once every winter we will stare at a single snowflake, one year intricate, one year plain.  And once we will listen to the hollow the snow has made in the palm of the air. How that sound is also intricate and plain.  How we have become like that snowflake and snowbound silence, intricate and plain.  Winter comes in like a winter coat.  We wear the winter as the winter wears us. 

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at shurley@nhpr.org.

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