Wintercount: The Day the Winter Weight Lifted

becketHe thought: “Dreams, though completely overwhelming, are instantaneous; they fall as though they were placed, and placed as though they have meaning. The subconscious creates them and extinguishes them silently. If lucky, or prone to extrapolate what does not exist, maybe the dream can look like it has a meaning. Sometimes it means something. It probably does not. Maybe the dream can turn your life around, maybe a dream can lubricate you so that the tight hand that grips your heart and pulls it to the ground will slip, just enough, and you can be free. Maybe, but often not. What a nice thing that would be, if dreams had enough energy to lift you and move you and carry you about, soaked with an emotion or particular image so that falling was flying and flying was real.”

Brennan was in a cycle. He was in the lowest point of what was a common and nearly calendar occurrence that was a side effect of reflection: the Winter Weight. To most, it is called depression. To most writers it is called writer’s block. Musicians call it being in a slump. He called it both. He called it everything bad, but not depression. His sentences became short. Nothing came out right. Nothing came out well. Nothing was executed well. Nothing was right. Nothing. He was sad. It was a bad time, but he was used to it.

Evening came. The sky was onerous and the only thing without rich color. Colors of the world around Brennan were taken from a palette of thick greens, browns, and grays, a palette of the pacific northwest. Brennan sat on a wall just outside his house thinking about dreams and what dreams are and how they make him feel. He thought: dreams lived on a pedestal held up by reinforcement to follow your dreams, but it was never explained what a “dream” was. Ideas reeled in his head. Ideas about the difference between a dream while asleep and an aspiration. He never believed that dreams at night could affect the day, someone told him they could. He liked the evening, he liked when it got dark. the darkness let him think and act the way he wanted without judgement. He felt calm in the darkness. Most importantly he was controlled. Sometimes he got riled up and giggly or happy, which made him depressed because he felt silly and fake. The darkness composed him.

The stone wall was wet so his pants soaked through. They turned from brown to nearly black. In the winter there was no snow, only wet fog, thick air, and, of course, the Winter Weight. The weather during the wintertime was perfect for the Weight because the light was darker. Midday looked like the late moments of a summer’s dawn, which kept the weather out of mind. During the summer it was hard to be depressed because the light was too strong, and too hot, so it was distracting to be outside. During the summer it was too easy to go indoors to escape the oppressive temperature, but Brennan preferred the outdoors anyway. The outside was pleasant, he lived in a nice, quiet place.

The house was spacious. Intense edges wrapped it with hard corners and lots of sides; it seemed quite angular from the ground. A bird might have looked down and seen a big teardrop. “There must be some birds with bad vision,” he thought. Such birds would have had a hard time seeing the rough perimeter of the house, only the general shape would manifest. In the way a sawblade, though jagged, still looks like a circle, this house looked like a tear. It had a large, definitive corner on one end and smaller corners and rooms on the other. “Things sometimes look sad when the details are not clear,” he thought. The house had the same quality. It was old and made of redwood.

The sharp end of the tear pointed northeast, and the rest looked out on a vast green: a striking view of a gently rolling prairie. When he had to be inside he sat at his window and took it all in because his desk was good for sitting and thinking. The teardrop was the last property for miles, nestled on the outskirts of Breen. His backyard melted into the Cannenta Plains, which is the view he adored so much. The plains were his space, he claimed them when he was little and got too sad to be with his parents or to eat or to sleep. Or to be or not to be. He would run out and litter the grass with his teardrops. Cannenta sprawled out for eternity and hugged him within its folds.

Sometimes he let artists come to paint the rolling hills, and though he did not talk to them nor they to him, he fancied himself the gatekeeper. The artists always came back after their first trip there. They returned with all the different shades of emerald, forest, hunter and moss they could get their hands on. They needed them all. The prairie weeped with green.

Brennan got up off the wall and patted down the back of his pants, shaking off moss that had attached itself to him. He knelt and gave an empty expression. Being depressed allowed him the time to do things like see moss, and look vacantly at it. It was not obvious to him how being depressed made him feel because he didn’t feel depressed, per se. People called it depressed. People with diplomas and intelligence and authority. He just called it the Winter Weight. He was deflated, dispassionate, and aimless, but quiet and intent on reflection, completely full of thought. It was a bad time, but he was used to it.

He stood up. Looking at the wall forced his back to the Cannenta, he was looking toward his home his home. “or am I,” he thought. Behind him was a small stone path that bridged the property lines of the Drystan household and the Cannenta Plains. His head moved slowly up to notice where he would often sit in his window. He imagined looking out from it and seeing himself looking back. His vision would be sharp enough to look into his eyes gazing back up from the wall. He didn’t see the vacancy everyone else saw. He saw a boy who thought about his place in the world and each action he took. He saw a boy who was humbled by the weather and by the season and by the weight on his shoulders. The Brennan at the wall broke eye contact and, turning around, he was back in his real body.

As if he had fallen asleep and woken up in a different day, the mood changed. He was standing with his back to the house now. The air thinned and became silky and the sky opened up. The sky didn’t expose any blue, it was never blue in the winter, only gray, but clouds defined themselves against the sky. The sun, showing just an intense, fuzzy dot behind the blankets of overcast, gave just a nod that it still existed. Brennan noticed more details in the trees in the backyard of his house, revealing specific hues in the already prevalent greens and browns and grays. He was mostly silent, eyes attentive to the surrounding textures, but he did manage to pour out the syllables of one word, “melancholy.” He was melancholy. He saw melancholy. He tasted melancholy in his breath. He repeated it.

“mel-an-chol-y”

He took a step towards the expanse. As he did so the sun hid itself again, but left behind a wonderful pink wash on all the clouds. He continued slowly away from the house. He had once made it a rule to never wear shoes out there, so he took those off. Orange began to coat the pink that was painted on the sky, the color grew more dramatic as he got closer to the first little hill. He walked the fifty yards to the top so that he was level with the tops of all the grass dunes. The grass wet his feet and saturated the cuffs of his pants, so he took them off. He wasn’t worried then about letting the bundled corduroy sit on the damp earth. He walked on, traipsing about and stripping more and more garments. An old coffee-colored suede bombers jacket went next. Then a thin white T-shirt with a notably wide neck and fitted sleeves that just fell over his deltoids. After he took off his pants, he didn’t stop moving around to take off his jacket and shirt, but when he finally stripped his underwear, he sat down.

The sky was now pink and coral. His body was changed, subtly, and on the inside. It gave him a tremendous amount of energy to look up and wonder about the sky, but the grass whispered,
“do not think, go!”

He got up and bolted off down the side of a hill, falling into its undaunting crevasse then flying up the other side. The wind carried him from the top of one hill, down out of sight, then up to the top of another. All in one swift gesture the wind picked him up and he cried out
“bliss!”

Again he sang out,
“bliss!”

Then, as if realizing the definition of the word, both corners of his mouth turned slowly up, his lips parted for a short moment. He was bliss. He saw bliss. He tasted bliss on his breath.
He would wake up the next morning not particularly remembering when he saw himself in the window, or when he looked vacantly at the moss, but he would remember the weight of the winter and how it was lifted, as he was, in one quick moment in the arms of the Cannenta.

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