“Aunt Shella, I don’t like this weather. I can’t tell what time it is.”

My nephew Blake said this to me on a rare, gray day in Florida. I understood. I am ruled by light and colors.

A perfect day for me begins with a soft yellow morning, swirling pink, orange and blue coming up quietly. I am clearest for poetry at this time, so I write. As the day turns brighter blue and yellow, I like to get up from my desk and go outside to bike or meet a friend for coffee. When twilight brings more pastels, I write again, this time wandering a trail with my poems. At sundown, I like to read, watch something funny, or spend time with my love and music.

In winter, the sun can set as early as 4:30, and up here in north country, a week can be days upon days of nothing but gray. Despite how winter gray has challenged me, I return to it again and again-to Minneapolis, Chicago, Berlin, New York. I do this because gray cities are creative cities. Maybe, like me, other artists flock to these winter-gray places, because it feels like a perpetual dream state, a continuous black and white film. With the right amount of coffee, it is a fruitful setting for writing. But I have to be honest. By mid- January, I’ve had it. I want to spring. I want to wake up, so I design wildflower and vegetable gardens in my head, and I make a plan a way to escape.

Still, this winter has been a better one. I have a new hip and a jacket that is really a blanket, both of these has made it possible for me to hike trails, and as my brother once advised, “get out into the gray to understand it.” It’s worked.

Winter has been speaking to my senses.

The Sharp-Shinned (or Cooper’s) hawk perched in the maple tree right outside our living room window, and I saw the colors of winter. Her eyes were gold, her wings smoky blue, a new kind of luscious sky-scape. Her chest was soft white and light brown speckles, and her tail feathers were deeper brown stripes dipped at the end in white. She comforted me. Brown has always been a soothing color. It is garden dirt, tree bark, and the kind eyes of my students. Her white was the same color as snow. I usually find snow Romantic only for a second, then I want it to melt and get the hell out of my walking way, but hawk was teaching me to see it for its temporal beauty.

And ethereal she was. Benjamin took her photo, and she flew away, taking her bright yellow talons with her, showing me another kind of sun, making me forget to check the time.