It is early morning. The world is dark blue and cold. A thin pale line traces a horizon that wasn’t there a moment before when the earth and sky were merged in darkness. The sky lightens faster and faster, from a dove grey to the silver of vacant mirrors, rose-tinted edges rising up, spreading out into bright opalescence. What was once so firm, so permanent seems at once weightless, boundless.
A wave of frustration washes over you as you step into your white, egg-shaped Ford Aspire and turn the key in the ignition. The car doesn’t warm up quickly enough and the “check engine” light is always on, “a warning light malfunction” the shady used-car dealer had said a year ago. The car spews out a fog of condensation as you step out to scrape the frost off the windshield.
You step back into the car and press the accelerator several times, trying to warm up the clammy interior. All the windows immediately fog up. You will have to wait until they clear before you can back out of the narrow driveway. There are unforgiving ditches on either side, something you once regretfully overlooked. You try to shake the sleepiness off, there is no time for coffee or breakfast. You should have gone to bed earlier, you won’t get a chance to rest again, not until tonight.
At this very moment, your life seems fixed: a heap of chores, routine tasks, practical expectations and duties to fulfill, work that must get done, no days off and no one else to rely on. Everything else is just a dream, as fleeting and ephemeral as the dawn.
The streets are dark and empty as we step out of the town theater. We have just seen a stage play, one deserving of a full audience and a standing ovation but received only the latter. The air is dry and cold. It is night. Snow powders everything lightly, diffusing all other colors. There is only black, white and a variance of greys. We look up at the street lamps and notice it is snowing once again, just barely, not enough to see the flakes descend beyond the sharp cones of light. The town square is mostly vacant, a few cars make their way unobtrusively. The muffled silence becomes an all-consuming presence as we walk.
Our hands in our coat pockets, our elbows touching, we stroll down the sidewalk, looking for an excuse to stay longer. We linger in front of shop windows, their bright rectangles casting our shadows starkly on the white ground. There are felt hats, woolen scarves and gloves displayed on wooden shelves. It feels time has stood still. We catch our reflections on the glass and the lights of an open diner down the adjacent street. It beckons to us.
There is a wooden house built on the side of the hill by the narrow road as it takes you down to the rocky shore. The house is the soft blue of worn denim. It is roomy and always smells of cedar. It has a dark grey pitched roof and an inviting porch. Its large bay windows take in the sea, the mountains, the sky, and every magnificent sunrise and sunset. The windows are spotless and there are no curtains to obscure its stunning views and its warm, comfortable interior.
You look at this house every time you walk to the beach. A young family lives there. They have three beautiful children playing in their sprawling garden, inside a playhouse, or up in the apple trees. Their mother sits on the porch and looks on. She has a kind face and sparkling eyes brimming with laughter. She must be so happy, you think, she is living your dream.
When you returned after all those years away, you found yourself coming back to your old dreams. Dreams that had attached themselves to special places and remained there long after. Remained long after those places have been changed or demolished. They waited for you to return, to recollect them, turn them over in your hand, like a cache of smooth pebbles. Cherished and scattered back to the earth.
Text and pictures by M.P. Baecker.