Jessie Raymond: Photos show a different side of winter
This hasn’t been the easiest of winters. Perhaps you’ve noticed.
Most years we at least get a January thaw, a few gentle days that bolster our spirits enough to get us through the miserable days still to come. This year, we’ve had approximately one day above freezing since Labor Day, and enough days below zero that I keep thinking my thermometer is broken. (If only.)
Bit by bit, my sanity has been cracking. When the weather forecast didn’t change for weeks — cold today, with a wind chill advisory in effect and a potentially significant snowfall in the next 48 hours — I wrote a strongly worded letter to the National Weather Service reminding them that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
The weather has made everything, from driving to taking out the trash, more difficult. On one particularly frigid and gusty morning I threw a tantrum trying to drag two loaded 30-gallon garbage cans from the barn to the roadside through thigh-deep snowdrifts. Drivers stopped to take pictures.
Day after day, the cold has been sinking a little deeper into my bones, reducing me to a pale, self-pitying mess. With itchy, dry skin.I spend my free time huddled under a fleece blanket, sipping hot tea and wondering if my legs — or even my wrists, for that matter — will ever again see the light of day.
But about a week ago, I made a decision: I had to stop acting like a victim. Instead of letting winter own me, I would own winter.
So I started taking pictures.
I couldn’t change the weather. But I could document every wicked aspect of the winter of 2014-2015 so I’d never forget just how grueling it has been.
I took pictures of the icicles hanging off our roof and of the towering snow banks at the perimeter of our driveway. I took pictures of frigid chickadees gathering around the bird feeder and the icy slush built up in my wheel wells. I took a picture of the thermometer, holding at minus 12.
With the help of my computer, I’ve started turning those pictures into a slideshow. This summer, when I’m complaining about the heat, I’ll play the slideshow and remember that this was the harshest winter I’ve ever lived through (assuming I make it; it’s not even March yet).
My plan is working. Instead of succumbing mentally to the windswept, ice-cold misery of this winter, I’m going on the offensive, treating it like a project that I can control.
Once I’ve edited and arranged the photos, I’ll set them to music. I’m debating whether to go with “The Song of the Volga Boatmen,” which evokes the way I feel when I wake up to yet another bitterly cold morning, or “We’re Having a Heat Wave,” for the irony.
I’ve been going through the pictures I’ve compiled so far. One was taken on Sunday — you remember Sunday, right? The first day of 2015 when it was sunny and above freezing at the same time? The picture is of our stark white back field, bordered above by a piercing blue sky, and below by a craggy snow pile casting a periwinkle shadow.
It’s lovely, actually.
Many of the pictures, in fact, look downright attractive: remnants of snow clinging to the cupola on our barn; a snowy landscape at twilight, shades of lavender and peach stretching across the sky; the goats, munching contentedly on hay, unperturbed by the cold.
I had intended the slideshow to stand as damning evidence of this hellish winter. Technically, the photos do show that we live in a frozen wasteland. However, it’s a beautiful frozen wasteland. Kind of magical, even.
So much for my efforts. When the slideshow is finished, I’ll have something that looks less like a scathing indictment of the weather and more like a promo for the Vermont Department of Tourism. The takeaway is not what I wanted to show — that winter here is the absolute pits — but rather that we’re lucky to live in such a paradise, even at its most severe.
I find it disturbing that, in spite of the damage the past few months have done to my psyche, I can’t help seeing my surroundings with sympathetic, even adoring eyes.
This makes me, as far as I know, the first person to ever suffer from Stockholm syndrome as a hostage of winter.