The past three weeks have been a cold gray haze. That is, I have been living in a monochrome world. Everything has been a shade of black, white or gray. And it is has been cold. It started 3 weeks ago in Colorado.
Last week I was in Illinois. It started with an early morning flight from California. Early morning means driving to the airport in the dark. As I boarded the silver gray plane, that set the color-tone for the next three days.
Descending from 30,000 feet towards O’Hare International Airport, the sky below was a gray blanket. Transitioning from a sunlight blue sky above; we dropped into a gray world. A world I would live in for the next three days.
Exiting the terminal and walking to my rental car, the cold air hit. Looking at my iPhone, it was well below freezing. A few minutes later with the heater and defroster blowing, I was on the freeway heading north. Warm in my metal and glass cocoon I was aware of the ever present shades of gray. Sky, road, buildings, and bridges – all cement grey. All the trees were winter-dead, with branches reaching up, like a panhandler’s outstretched hand, begging for sunshine and warmth; the ingredients that would bring each tree back to life.
Worse than the gray would be the constant cold. Never above freezing, often below 20F. I had spent the previous week in Colorado Springs, and the continuing cold was getting monotonous. The next couple of mornings I would start and then discontinue hikes in some wetlands. Flocks of geese floating in the water became less interesting than escaping the wind-blown cold. Finally, at week’s end I boarded another silver-gray plane that would whisk me out of this monochrome world.
This is week 3 of cold. I am somewhere between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This is my 3rd day of snow, in my third week of sub-freezing weather. Snow means gray clouds; it means the temperature is below freezing. Today I was at the top of Laurel Mountain – at less than 3,000 feet it is not exactly a mountain in my mind; but it acts like a mountain does in winter. Deep snow and wind. At the top of Laurel Summit, I know this trip is coming to an end. Soon I will be heading down from the summit towards the airport and home.
As my car makes it way west towards Pittsburgh, gray seeps into my brain. I don’t want gray. I want to think good thoughts; warm thoughts – but gray flows into my mind, like a ground fog quickly moving to cover everything in sight. Of course the sky is gray, it is snowing. Ice covered roads are dirty gray, moving vehicles covered in road slush are all gray. Gray, gray, and more gray. As I lose altitude the roads clear of ice, revealing gray cement. Forests of naked trees with a snowy ground covering look gray. It dawns on me that the rivers and streams I have seen over the past three days are winter-gray reflecting the gray world.
As I inch along in downtown Pittsburgh, caught in rush hour traffic, I move through a maze of gray bridges. Soon I see a gray hill to my right, gray with hundreds of gray tombstones. The gray of real death, not the temporary winter-gray-death I have been experiencing. In less than an hour I will be escaping this gray death in another silver- gray plane.
Now all I think about is a desert hike. A hike in warm weather.