Land of Gray

Semi-submerged log in Lake Washington at St. Edwards State Park.

Semi-submerged log in Lake Washington at St. Edwards State Park.

The Pacific Northwest is known as a land of green, but in the deepness of winter, I sometimes feel grey is more appropriate.

I mean it as an observation, not a judgment. Grey is beautiful and varied. In high school my absolute joy was black and white film photography. The silver compounds in a sheet of photo paper can synthesize what sometimes feels a truer vision of the world. The essence of objects is demystified through disassociation from their colors, their true forms and place shown by their relative values.

The sky in winter is perpetually gray, with blinding brightness bursting forth along the horizon below the cloud layer. Lakes turn silver, reflecting the gray. Weathered trees in the water seem colorless, existing in form and shade only, tintless.

The dimmer light of our short winter days desaturates the greens of the trees, naturally giving the world the look of an old-fashioned Instagram filter. Winter feels muted, hushed, in the uniform light. Shadow and highlight are not so different. Differences are obscured.

The constant mist of rain shrouds colors further. Larger raindrops fall, silver to white against the darker earth.

My Hardest Months: Surviving the Winter

Winter is the toughest season for me. Sure, there’s snowshoeing (I don’t downhill ski anymore), but that’s only feasible on weekends since it gets dark so early. I go to work in the dark, I come home in the dark. The sky seems to always be gray. And especially right now, it’s cold, lung-searing, cheek-pinking, eye-stinging. I look outside, and I don’t want to go.

Somehow, January and February are harder for me than November and December, although in the fall the days are getting shorter and in the winter the days are getting longer. Perhaps it’s the span of time it’s seemed dark — my mind lumps together Fall and Winter as the Dark Days.

It feels fitting that we’ve picked Winter for our New Year celebration, the time of resolutions and reinvention. Winter is a time for reflection, which flows into dreams for the coming year. It’s a time for sitting in front of a fire and letting the fire pass its spark to you.

I’ve always been one for tackling problems with action, for laying plans. So what’s an artist and outsdoorswoman to do when the outdoors feels less than inviting?

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