It’s gray again. It was gray yesterday, too. The same gray as this gray. There is no different variety of gray now. The only change comes later, when the gray twists and builds and puffs dark and mean, wet. This gray today isn’t yet like that gray, the warmer gray, the spring gray that brings the showers which yield the spring flowers that look very little like summer flowers. Summer flowers bloom and bloom, many times, for months even. Spring flowers bloom once, a display that shows what they are and all they can be, hiding nothing, holding nothing back, and like that, gone. The gray builds and the temperatures rise and out West they’ll be saying it’s going to be hot. El Nino they’ll say, but we won’t know what that really means until we’re sweating in our beds at night, wondering why it’s so windy, so wet, so warm and gray. This gray isn’t like that gray.
But this gray is a good gray, because it’s the gray that means things are changing. It might be gray in January, but that gray isn’t like this gray. January is brighter, in my memory anyway, because it’s white and it’s bright and the cold fronts that spell below zero nighttime lows also spell bluebird days. Days so bright and so clear and so cold that there’s nothing to do with them, nothing at all. Squinting is not something. Who could love a day like that, besides my grandmother? My Norwegian grandmother loved the sunny days of January, because she had nothing to do but sit inside, and if you must sit inside then it might be better to find a sunny sky through those small double hung windows. I’d rather sit in the warmth of a fireside room with the gray outside because that day can be spent brooding. Who could brood on a sunny January day? My German grandmother didn’t care about the sun, because she had plates to fire and cakes to build and there’s no reason for the sun to shine when those things must be done. I don’t like the bright of a winter January because I associate the bright with the cold and the cold doesn’t bother me as much as it used to but I still don’t care for it. A cold sun is a useless sun, no matter how hard it tries to convince you otherwise.
But it’s gray again today and it’s been gray since Monday. Friday, gray. Monday, gray. The days in between, all gray. Except at night, when the sun falls so low that it sneaks some light in pink and purple and orange under that shroud. The end of the day, a twinkle of warmth in the Western sky. That sunset is later now than it was then, it’s light until 6 and soon it will be light until 7 and then we’ll be walking outside without jackets and we’ll put in our boats and we’ll sit on piers and we’ll complain about other things. The days are warmer now, cold still, but a warmer cold. A gray cold, the sort of gray and the sort of cold that tells us it’s soon to be spring. Spring. It’s coming soon, and it’s coming next week, because in the fifth grade they told us that we could spend recess outside without jackets on as soon as the temperature hit 60 degrees. Who could play Four Square with a jacket on? Not me, and so we’d take our jackets off and throw them on the ground and hope the teachers didn’t see. It was only 55, but it felt like 60 and no one could argue with that.
So today, it’ll be gray. Tomorrow, sun. Sunday, who could say? It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters now is that each day is longer, each week warmer. Even when certain days buck the pattern the results are already in. Spring is coming, and it can’t be stopped. The bright days of winter are gone and the dull gray days that mark our slow transition are here. My grandmother is no longer alive to object.