Monday, January 19, 2009

A Cold Grey Day and One Happy Dog

In the South winter is not so much a season as it is a place. The thrill of that first cold spell is over, and the joy of Christmas has long since passed.

Arctic air has pushed far into the Low country and with it comes temperatures in the low twenties, cold that travels across frozen porches, pushes past front doors and enters your home without politely first knocking.

Charleston has become a place called winter and for the first time, since New Year's day the city is stunningly quiet in early hours of the morning.

But who can enjoy a winters long walk more than a dog? No one I suspect, for no one loves winter more than Madison.

There's a youthful spring in her stride, though now nearly six (in Lab years she is considered middle age) she is this morning 100% puppy, and she explores her world as if the cold has changed everything, our normal route now a frozen wasteland, is new place to explore.

She trots off leash down the Battery her black otter tail floats along behind her carried ever so lightly as she merrily travels across the uneven pavement.

My whistle, not louder than a whisper stops her a dozen feet from a gull perched atop one of the cold concrete posts that divide sea birds from curious water loving dogs.

The gull is neither threatened nor amused at our intrusion, we are a minor annoyance and finally the bird takes flight only to land again just out of reach but directly in our path ahead.

Mist rises off the water, a sheet of grey steel that drifts past the battery heading out to sea, cold and uninviting, yet is the warmest part of the colorless landscape.

We cut across the coldness of the park, past Madison's normal doggie water fountain which only offers frozen water and explore Meeting Street.

At Broad Street Madison sits, and waits patiently at the curb, there is not a car in sight, but we wait for the light to change anyway and simply take in all that winter has to offer.

Steam drifts into the cold morning air from manhole covers scattered along meeting street a reminder how cold the day will be.

A bellman at the Mills House steps out into the morning air to greet us his long heavy coat provides much needed protection from January's chill.

The entrance to Water Front Park is quiet, the usual splash of cascading water is gone, replaced by a free flowing lump of ice.

The clouds have been hammered flat, they hang low across the Peninsula and stretch across the harbor and on past Sullivan's Island where a glint of sunlight shines into the frozen grass of Waterfront Park.

In a space no bigger than a quarter laid on edge the sun crosses a thin blue gap between grey ocean and grey sky. There is no warmth only a tease as the sunlight quickly fades and turns the muted pastels of Rainbow Row to ugly shades of grey.

But it is enough to turn my thoughts to spring and azaleas and of all things that make March worth waiting for, in a place called Charleston and not a place called Winter.

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