There was always something about winter midnights that stirred something up inside me. Perhaps it was how the world seemed to glow as the golden streetlight from the car lot across the way bounded off the freshly fallen snow. Maybe it was the way my body seemed to stay warm despite being surrounded by frozen flakes as they descended to the ground, or the whisk whisk of icy wind as it passed, nipping my nose and biting the tips of my ears ever so gently.
Or maybe it was the silence. A complete voidness of sound. So quiet, and so desolate, and yet so full of life; it was such an exhilarating sensation, it was practically surreal. The darkness engulfing the world danced with the frozen rain and, for a brief moment, I felt like nothing seemed to matter anymore.
But soon Jack Frost would have his way. My nose, having been bit too hard, began to run, my ears began to burn, and my breath ripped painfully out of my throat. My mind kept telling me to stay as it tricked my body into thinking it was warm, but the shivers that started to disable my ability to stand said otherwise. I returned to the shelter of my hearth, the chill still clinging to my skin as the feeling subsided; the presage of frostbite was the only reassurance that what I had felt was indeed not a dream. I slept peacefully that night as I dreamt of mint flavoured winds and untainted crystal plains wrapped in liquid darkness.
However, with the morning sun came the distinct scent of a foiled masterpiece. The bile taste of disappointment filtered into my mouth as I opened the front room door. The sky was a vibrant blue, birds chirped high above in the trees, and the snow was riddled with filth.
The once white landscape was now a sullied brown, footprints littered the yard, and half the frost had already buckled under the intense glare of the pale yellow sun. Everything I had felt washed away with the rays, and I found myself suddenly filled with contempt. An irritation danced beneath my rib cage, I slammed the door, and retreated back to the comfort of my sheets.
For the rest of the season life went on, and as the kiss of winter became repressed I felt more idiotic than ever before. Why, for the love of God, why did I not immortalise what I had seen when I had experienced it? Why had sleep won over beauty? The world needed to know, needed to feel what I had felt, but by now it was gone, and there was no way that I could recreate something so vivid without being there to witness its glory. I could not, and I knew such, because I tried. Oh how I tried.
Thousands of crumpled sheets of paper and dozens of canvases ripped out of fury; in the end I could never capture the essence of that frigid winter night. Subtly, the memory of snowflakes on my skin began to seem distant like the haziness of a dream and the whispers of the frostborn wind became unreachable to my ears. When it came to the soft songs that the ice covered tree tops had sung, my mind drew a blank, and all that was left of the beauty I had so miserably failed to reproduce was the impression that it had left upon me.
It left me thinking about many things. Why had I been the one to see such grandeur, for example. What was this raw feeling of passion that the vision had sowed within me? Why, for the life of me, wasn’t I able to put the image down on paper before it was too late? The answers to such questions illuded me, ever passing by and yet never quite attainable. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed when neither the answers, nor a repeat of winter’s majesty ever came. I forced myself to set aside the hope of ever seeing such a thing again and focused on what society demanded of a low class person like me. Food needed to be put on the table and the roof kept over my head, and so I forgot about the winter wonderland and focused on the reality.
But, like a nagging housewife or a persistent morning alarm, nature will never let you forget what it has given.
I believe the season was autumn. The world was, as always, a stunning array of colours; the world seemed like a painter’s pallette, the ground splashed with reds, oranges, brown, and a hint of dying green. The world was hibernating, but the people remained full of vigor.
It was one particularly chilly afternoon, the sun was lugging itself back over the horizon, and I was walking home from work. I lived a couple blocks down from the quaint little bookstore that I treked to everyday so I never really saw the need to invest in a vehicle since I needed the extra money anyway. I was just about in my neighbourhood when I noticed something quite out of the ordinary on the bridge I was crossing. A man, to be precise. He was rambling to himself in a frustrated manner before an easel that was holding a blank canvas. In his hands clad in fingerless gloves he held a sketchbook and a stub of worn down charcoal. He scribbled madly, angrily ripping out the sheets that he ruined and forcefully tossed them into a bin beside him. Being the person I am, I was rather intrigued.
“Excuse me.” I called to him, shoving my hands into my dark grey peacoat and snuggling into my muffler as I did so. The man did not budge, only continued to sketch wildly and throw his head up occasionally to gaze at the leaf ridden river. I inced forward a bit, interested to see why the man was out in such bitter cold with a pair of gloves and yet not even a jacket.
“Excuse me?” I tried again a bit louder, this time the man whipped around, startling me, and stared at me with the most pained expression I have ever seen befall mankind. I felt my breath escape me as his confused, passion filled emerald eyes pleaded for me to tell him why he couldn’t get it right. Why he couldn’t capture what God was showing him. I knew that feeling of despair, and I knew that this man thought he was the only one who could see it, just as I did.
“What did you need?” His smokey voice was weary as he let out an exhausted sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. I glanced out over the railing of the bridge and at the landscape that he had been trying to paint and then at his empty canvas and the dozens of wasted sheets discarded in the waste bin.
And then I smiled somberly.
“Sometimes,” I finally let out. “Sometimes it’s better to just feel.” I reached out my hand, slowly closed his sketchbook, and turned towards the river. He stared at me, his brows furrowed, then glanced around at his scattered things as he pondered my words. I pointed out towards the horizon, the failing sun lighting up the water’s surface as it contrasted magnificently against the rainy sky and the crimson hills, and I chuckled as the man gasped, dropping his charcoal stub as he did so, then stared in awe at the picturesque landscape. A silence flooded in, and we both stood there listening to the chilly wind whisper through the treetops. Neither of us spoke and as I silently began to organise my mind, I suddenly realised what I had been failing to grasp all along:
Beauty isn’t perceived by its length of existence nor our ability to immortalise it, but is rather considered such because we understand that it is fleeting.