Coal colored mornings and pitch-dark afternoons. A midday light that hits low across the barren field out front. Behind, the skyscrapers and towering grey buildings shield a glazed over sun that slinks across the sky, wondering if he should bother to raise his head at all. In an instant, the cold gives a sharp slap across my cheek and burns the inside of my nose. Recovering from the sting, I notice the brittle branches of the naked trees across the street and I realize there is nothing here but dryness. Sucked of all moments of moisture, the world is still and arid. Even the sky, bold in its eggshell blue expanse, stretches devoid of clouds. My skin crackles then shrivels from her touch. Russian winter is here.
I’m surprised, at first, by the familiarity of the light and the raw contact of the cold on my skin. This is not something I should know. But my body shifts, moving easily against this occasion, as if encountering an old acquaintance. I wonder at my absence of fear, my lack of trepidation. My soul knows it will be many long months. But somewhere, under the bundled layers that allow me to move between shelter into the underground and interior world, I welcome this careful slide into a season of extremes and prolonged transitions.
With every entrance and exit, there is dressing and undressing. Tights under jeans, long underwear, wool sweaters, oversized coats, snow boots, gloves, a wool hat and scarf. On again. Off again. On again. Off again. At first, I prefer to stay indoors, hidden from the sharp frost. That is, until I venture out to savor this bustling metropolis moving at high speed against the elements. Fat fur hats scurry under a smattering of neon billboards. Trams push through the outlandish traffic under a sprinkling of white snow. Art exhibits beckon me across town, through massive metro stations and cacophonous streets crowded with fully-covered citizens moving en masse. And when the white descends to encase the city, as I’m sure it will again soon, Moscow becomes even more delicious, mysterious even to the trained eye. This spectacular and complicated capital fills another page of my extended adventure. Today the thermometer read only 1 degree Fahrenheit and I know this is only the beginning. Welcome winter.