January 5, 2012, Washington, DC: Our relationships with the places we love change in winter. The light shifts, and so does how we see them. In the cold of early January, these places we love settle down, grow quiet and more isolated. After the holiday high of full houses and delighted residents, we see our towns and cities get a bit moody and insular.
This time of year, we can actually see some of our hometowns retreat inside and close the door, Christmas tree left on the curb. They put on some tea and open a book. They occasionally try their hardest to look alive and fight feeling antisocial. They try to keep their public spaces crowded with people. Still, the spirit in the air of these places shifts a bit. Indie French rock of a beautifully slow pace and eerie calm replaces the carols playing at Montreal ice rinks.
As the light shifts, our venues do too. Here in Washington, evening walks are fewer and farther between. Gelato runs give way to less frequent outings for a cup of hot chocolate. Hockey at Verizon Center replaces baseball at Yards Park. We reacquaint ourselves with the city’s museums and go places we’ve never been, like a play at Fort Fringe.
The routines differ from town to town, but in each of them, our relationships with these places ebb and flow with the the seasons. If we are honest, we like their summer selves best, with the exception of sunny February days in San Francisco. Come summer, our hometowns are more spontaneous, more approachable, warmer in every sense of the word. That first spring day in Chicago is the happiest place on Earth.