The Bay in Winter
by Helena Mann-Melnitchenko
Sure, it's easy to love a month like May or June. It's the winter months that are the real test of character. I like their lack of clutter, their simplicity. The American painter Edward Hopper painted canvases like the landscape I see before me. In beach towns, the lines of empty summer homes are delineated in clean lines, stripped of redundancies. Chesapeake Bay is free of boats; it's just the sky, the sun, the water. Those who winter near the water understand the peace.
Early winter brought little snow. A threadbare blanket covered the icy ground before Christmas and was gone within a day. December and early January were warm, and thoughts of global warming flitted like pesky flies in my head. January did not disappoint. The day before Inauguration, the flakes began to fall ... and stick.
Memories of winters past flooded my mind. As a teacher, I listened with great anticipation to the announcements of school closings. It was an unexpected dividend, a lagniappe, to have a day off, to catch up with grading compositions by the snow covered window, to smell the buttery scent of baking cookies filling the house, perhaps to write a poem.
But there's nothing better than to take a stroll along the Chesapeake on a winter day. Not many people are out; few hardy souls walk briskly on this cold morning, some with their faces peering out from the hoods of their jackets. We exchange quick greetings for we know each other, the regulars.
I feel the scratchiness of the woolen orange scarf on my neck, the only spot of color on a monochromatic palette, and I feel the cold on my nose. The air smells clean, neutral. I listen to the waves breaking on the rocks along the shore and concentrate on the sound, triumphant here, a whisper there, a symphony in my ears. The occasional cry of a seagull punctuates the music of the Bay.
The sun, a pale lemon in a meringue-white winter sky, reflects in the silvery water. The morning light in winter is brilliant on the Bay's surface. The water has shed its summer murkiness. I see the sandy bottom with minnows darting in its clear, cold, transparent depths.
Not every day has this luminosity. I walk along the Chesapeake when it is shrouded in fog thick as molasses, my footsteps muffled on the empty pier. The air is heavy with the great Bay's mist, and I can taste its wetness on my lips. The sound of the waves breaking on the western shore is muffled, ominous. It's then that my imagination takes flight, and I create a murder mystery in my mind. A light shudder passes though my frame as I steal a glance over my shoulder. I am alone.
I love green May with its scent of lilacs, the raspberries sweet and mellow on my tongue in June, the warmth of the Bay's waters on my toes in July. But now, at this moment, it's icy February that I love.
Mann-Melnitchenko, who lives in Owings, walks the Bay along the North Beach boardwalk. She last reflected in All Things Rare and Beautiful [Vol. XII, No. 43].