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Earned Gifts of a Boston Winter

Earned Gifts of a Boston Winter
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Photo Credit: Christopher Churchill

Slide Show: Boston in Winter

Bostonians complain about a lot of things, and they especially complain about the winter: the cold, the slush, the sunlessness, the narrow streets and sidewalks compressed further still by crusty banks of snow.

But then, on stormy nights, you’ll find them in a snug North End café, or lingering over a slow-poured Guinness in an Irish pub. Warm and well fed, they’ll shelter behind ice-frosted windows in the early darkness as the snow falls outside, white against the red brick in the lonely glow of streetlights. These moments stop time.

Photographer Christopher Churchill compares it to September days in his hometown of Camden, Maine, after the summer tourists leave. “You earn those slices of things that remind you why you live here,” he says.

Before the snow turns sooty, before the shoveling and long commutes resume, Bostonians will grow nostalgic for their childhoods–snowball fights and sledding, snow days off from school–the happy privileges of winter in New England.

“When the city shuts down and schools are closed, it’s like a gift of time–time that you usually end up spending close to home with family and friends,” Churchill says. “Who doesn’t like it when a big snowstorm comes through? Who doesn’t have fun?”

Churchill’s conception of fun doesn’t necessarily include driving into Boston when a snowstorm is predicted, only to have the changeable New England weather switch to rain. “It’s tough to forget the drudgery of winter when you’re having to slog through it,” he says. “There’ve certainly been times when I’ve thought, ‘God, it would be good to be a photographer in L.A. right now.’”

The hectic city slows in winter. Even sound seems muffled by the cold and snow–except for, conspicuously, the clear, sharp morning sounds of ice being scraped from windshields and snow from asphalt. The river and, in places, the harbor sometimes freeze. An occasional seagull interrupts the otherwise unbroken monotony of thick, low clouds. The vibrant color of the just-past foliage is smudged to gray. The city turns to black-and-white, its cold stone statues lonely in the windswept snowscape.

Bostonians cocoon at home, or sit in restaurants and bars, watching the snow fall and the plows rumble past. Things come into sharper focus. Fringes of snow grace gnarled, arthritic branches bare of leaves, and draw the outlines of black cast-iron fences.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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One Response to Earned Gifts of a Boston Winter

  1. Susan Cole Kelly January 6, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Sunlessness? Empty-seeming? Really? Jon, you’ve always been one of my favorite writers, and I’m thrilled to see your byline back on the pages of Yankee. I just love the richly visual descriptions you’ve conjured here. And I’m also thrilled that you’re finding holes in the English language and coining words to fill them! Beautifully written!

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