There’s something about winter light that isn’t like any other. Mike Paulus tells us about the things hidden and revealed in the winter.
It’s so bright outside. In the middle of the night. I clicked off the little lamp on my nightstand, and now the bedroom windows are blooming with light. The shades are shut, but still it comes through. I think of movies where alien ships land in the backyard. But this is different. The light stands still, waiting. No glitter and flash.
This is what happens when it snows in a city like ours, when husky clouds hang low in the night. Streetlights and store signs throw up their dull, bulky electricity until the sky, murky and silent, glows.
I don’t even know what color you should call it.
Outside my 1am window, Eau Claire is flooded by this wannabe light from above, as a pink-but-not-really-pink haze oozes onto everything. The snowbanks, the sidewalks, the hushed porches and doorsteps. This is not the world we remember. Here is a sluggish brightness.
I can see so much on a night like tonight. It’s not sun, moon, or star light. It’s a secret. And that makes it a wonder.
Man made? I guess so. People call it “pollution.” Yet the snow and the clouds have always been out there in the black, gazing back at our dingy windowpanes.
Elsewhere in the house, little blue and green lights pepper the family room, the kitchen, the darkness. Telephones and computers and coffeemakers. The clocks. They are sleeping.
I walk to the back of the house, grab the string, pull open the blinds, and wow. I can see it all. Every finger of snow laid across every charcoal tree branch. Every link in the fence squaring off the yard. The dead stalks of plants. The immaculate snow flowing over in the lonesome sandbox.
Winter is a complicated season with so many hats and coats and boots. We pull down the shovels and we figure out why the damn snowblower won’t start. We plead with the furnace to keep going. Or we struggle and search for a warm place to sleep.
But winter is so simple. It buries our life and hides almost everything away. It tells us, “Look at what’s left, at what juts from the snowy fields. Trudge that way.”
I shut the blinds, go back to my bed.
I’d like to say we people of Wisconsin – who are so seasoned by a lifetime of cold months – I’d like to say that we sleep deeply and well. We doze off, finding content tucked into the heft of our quilts.
But I can’t say that. Because we worry. We tumble the same smooth rocks around our skulls year after year. We doubt. We plot. And hope. And like anyone anywhere, we try to overcome the nights of glaring into the dark corners of our bedroom. To find rebuttals. To find relief.
I am one who sleeps easy, especially when I go to bed so late. But tonight, before I close my eyes, I stare at my windows, and I wonder at how they are glowing.