My favorite time to be in the city is early on a Sunday morning. The city wakes up slowly, allows itself time to stretch and yawn and shrug off the night’s sticky film. The streets have a hushed and hallowed quality—calmed for a few precious hours between last calls and hasty departures and the nascent heartbeat of a new day. Businesses open later, morning rituals unfolding with a little more care. The grocer leans on his broom and takes a break from sweeping the sidewalk for a moment to gaze at the blush of sky. Even the restaurants and bistros that will be overrun by mid-morning with the brunch scene seem reluctant to throw open their doors. The whole city is on pause, collectively holding its breath before lurching forward into the day.
I love walking around town during this time. It’s like moving through possibility, if possibility were a street or alley way or curving bike path that you could feel beneath your feet. I take out my earbuds to hear what the city whispers; I find myself stepping softly as if picking my way across the fairy tale room of a sleeping giant to see how unobtrusive I can be. This past weekend it snowed in Boston. It snowed a reasonable amount, a respectable amount. Not this egregious 12 or 15 inches that deposited itself over some other areas of the country or was our particular recurring nightmare last winter. It was enough to carpet streets and drape statues and brownstone stoops in a lovely shroud.
In the morning the storm had cleared out, leaving behind a blue sky so rich in its hue it could have spilled from an artist’s inkwell. The city was left even quieter than usual. Everything was a bit unfamiliar, smoothed out from the whiteness of things and arrested the way a parent puts their hand on a child’s shoulder to gently stifle.
This is the season of winding down and pulling closer to ourselves and others. We wait. We incubate. We get restless in the long months on hold. The city gives us a master class in isolation, of pretending not to see what’s right in front of our eyes, of turning away from the “out there” to throw ourselves into the purr of its engine—construction, turn-over, traffic, expansion. It’s a distraction and a lie. It’s smoke and mirrors the city casts that swaps the hustle on the surface for all that is happening that we cannot see or directly feel. This is Faith in action.
I complain to friends about the bracing cold and dormant landscape and the songbirds that have abandoned us and the nights that come on way too quickly as if this were all a prison sentence. In reality it’s a gift that we can tap into the murmur of winter and hear the call to join in with the hard, beautiful work of becoming that is taking place under the snow, under the ice, in the veins of the naked trees.
The city tangos with itself, yearning to speed forward like the rest of us while also longing to surrender to the slow and quiet like more of us should. When the season settles itself over the city, a curtain falling over a stage, it’s an invitation to see these cold, lonely, stillbirth months as brilliantly alive.