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May Gray

Green blades poking through Nome.

Green blades poking through Nome.

“May is different,” a local tells me. “It’s when the crazy sets in.”

Sometimes you can’t see the stop sign, the one on the corner, 20 feet from the house.

Sometimes you can’t see the end of the street, the one two blocks away.

Most of the time you can’t see the water. Breakup has happened, they say. But it’s hard to know.

The fog sits, thick and white. It creeps closer but never falls away.

Remember when you were a kid, and sitting up in bed, you would pull a sheet over your head, and all the world became that one color?

It’s like someone draped a gray sheet over Nome. Then stuck the hose of a fog machine under the hem. Then walked away.

“It’s claustrophobic,” I tell Dayneé, looking out the window at the white encroaching closer, pressing against the glass. “It gets better,” she says, shaking her head. “May is just…you just have to get through it.”

The orb of the sun is lost. Instead the haze disperses slate-colored light evenly across the town. Too evenly. There are no shadows and no orientation. Not even darkness overtakes the gray. We are at 18 hours and 36 minutes of daylight. Even at 3am, light brushes the sky.

When the roads cleared, a winter of ice melting away, I began running again. Now, running deeper into the gray coils my gut, and the disquiet heightens my necessity to move—vigorously. I grab my shoes and hike to the gym. Which is funny, because the color palette inside is gray and red.

Walking back, it’s hard to know whether the mist is falling or whether it’s hovering and I am passing through it. The finest of droplets cover my glasses. And only my lips are sensitive enough to feel what I am seeing, tingling with that most delicate spray.

I feel like I am in the community from Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver. Apples sail gray through the air here, not red.

With the world cloudy, I keep squinting my eyes, trying to bring rooftops and street signs into focus. Whole sections of town are obscured and what can be seen is blurred. I begin to worry if cataracts are setting in or if my cones—the part of the eye that registers color—are fading.

Then in the midst of all this gray. A small miracle.

At the base of a small tuff of ashen grass on the side of the road.

Green.

Chlorophyll green. Spring-time-is-coming green.

Evidence of light. Of sun. Of life regenerating. Evidence of roots stretching and blades lengthening and that green growing larger and deeper and expanding huge and healthy and vibrant down the street and across the town and through the tundra, soon overtaking all this gray.

I bend down to touch the green, sure not to pluck that new life. And for a moment the haze seems to back away from my hand enough for me to take this picture as hope for the sun to come.

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