“None of them knew the color of the sky.”
That’s the first line of Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat”.
When the world is reduced to the small vessel, the ocean and the sky, desolation and hopelessness are apparent from the start.
With little to work with: a small life boat, the sky, the water and a few characters, Crane turns this short story based on true events into a masterpiece of hope and despair. The flat, motionless ocean, a glimmer of light from the sky, a word or gesture between kindred souls…carry the reader along in weariness, discouragement, hope and sadness.
I think of his first line in the dismal days of this season on this small island.
Sunshine is a rare commodity on Beaver Island, most winters.
There’s something about the water temperature compared to the air temperature that keeps us frequently cloaked in haze,this time of year. The sky is most often some variation of gray. The sun, if visible at all, is a pale glow through the mist.
Snow covered, the woods take on the limited palette of a faded photograph.
Everything is gray, or nearly gray. There is a leaf that clings to branches through the winter. In the autumn, it’s pale orange is one of the least impressive of all the colors offered. This time of year, that bit of orange hanging from dark limbs is often the only bit of color in the view.
Humans, too, are in the throes of winter.
We walk carefully out on paths covered with snow or ice. We talk cautiously, as conversations seem able to turn quickly into tense discourses. We get excited over new faces on the streets. We appreciate the sun when we see it. We get out with skis or snowshoes or sleds when we can. Otherwise, we keep plodding on.
Winter is here.
Spring is not so far away.