New England hills rise up and down on either side of the car as we’re speeding north on I-95. Still frames line up in the car window and I almost wish we could stop to capture them with a camera – pristine white hills and bare trees decorate a world of ice around us, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. I am eating Swedish fish and thinking about the miles we have covered and what they mean, where we came from and where we are going. Tracking our progress on my phone is deeply satisfying; I watch the blue dot travel slowly up the screen and feel reassured. You can sit still and move at the same time.
Where we came from: I walked alone next to the Hudson, admiring the view of Manhattan across the river and considering the whiteness of the skyline against an even whiter sky. A washed-out world. It seemed deceptively quiet; the muted color palette belied the furious blur of sound and motion that I know to be nonstop.
Where we are going: the farthest north I’ve ever been in the United States. We arrive after dark, driving snowy streets outside Boston to find our way. Here, too, the city seems dulled by the white and grey and black of snow and sky. I’m not sure what I was expecting to change– I know the whole coastline has been awash with the same blizzards and ice for the past few months.
Late that night, R and A and I are wandering downtown and I am struck by how similar it feels to the countless nights we’ve stumbled along Portland streets in the same way. Watching my breath as we wait for a taxi, I want to ask them how much longer we’ll do this, if we’re outgrowing midnight walks on frigid pavements, if I should be here at all. Thoughts knock against one another in my mind, but I’m quiet. Our exhaled breath circles around, white and pristine against the dark sky, and leaves us waiting in stillness for our ride home, and I realize it’s this stillness that has made me restless for too long now. That’s what this winter feels like– what every winter feels like. I feel like we’re all ghosts, drifting through the motions while we wait for the thaw, and I wish I knew how to break the cycle.
Our car pulls up and we get in. We don’t talk, drifting into our own worlds somewhere between sleep and waking. Traversing the miles, staring out at the white space through bus and car and cab windows, I am at least thankful for the semblance of motion.