Last semester I taught a student from a tropical climate who asked on our first 20-degree day whether the weather in New England would get any worse. “Oh, yes,” I replied, to my student’s immediate and obvious dismay. “There will be single-digit and below-zero days when 20 degrees feels warm.”
I don’t know how that student from a tropical climate is doing now that we’ve entered the frigid days of late January. When I drove to campus this morning, the temperature was in the single-digits, and my brief walk from car to classroom was razor-sharp, the wind cutting through me rather than blowing around. On some days, it’s so cold you can barely catch your breath, the cold knocking the wind out of your lungs like a fist to the chest, and this morning was one of those days.
This afternoon, I waited until the temperature rose to 20 degrees to take a short afternoon walk, and even then I only dared to walk around the block, nearly counting the steps back to my warm office. On a cold, brilliantly bright day, it almost hurts to look at the sharply monochromatic landscape, the streets and sidewalks blanched with salt and the snow lacerated with exaggeratedly contrasting shadows. On a cold and brilliantly bright day, everything seems too sharp, and you long for the warmth of bright color and the solace of softly blurred edges.
What an excellent opportunity, then, to revisit some of the photos I took when J and I went to the Aquarium on a November day that felt just as bleak and cold as today. “Can New England winters get any worse than this,” I might have wondered then, and my immediate and dismaying response must have been “Yes, they can, and that is why you should take plenty of pictures, saving up shots of warmth and color for a frigid late January day to come.”