December 7, 2016
On the eve of my 23rd birthday, I go to sleep in Mainz. I wake up in Narnia.
No sun rises to tint the valley. The glen is a silver gelatin print emerging from white paper, shapes writing themselves over the new snow, a monochromatic dawning. Winter washes the morning in every shade of silver: sleeping-moth, haze-light, rabbit fur, frosted glass, dandelion, bruised moonflower, mother of pearl.
Winter cobwebs the world, softening all the edges. The sky is a cocoon adrift in the winds, marooned. Or a great white eye dreaming feather-dreams beneath silk cataracts. Or wax painted over a mirror in thin sheets. My birthday sky is the color of sleep, amnesia, ghosts, and my grandfather’s hair.
Trees blossom with ice-flowers, whiter than April bloom and lacier than May. My path through the glen is braided with tiny footprints, threaded like beads on white velvet ribbon. The pond is a shard of quartz, ashen amongst the reeds. Mr. Magpie has left his nest without a note to tell when he’ll return.
Winter’s first snow has candied the city. White frosting trims the eaves and windows are ice-glazed. Sugared berries sparkle on thorn bushes and every pine needle has been dipped in icing. The candied city glitters in the winter-chill. Locked in December’s icebox, Mainz won’t melt until March.
Every gilded sprig, every enameled pool, every pearly berry, every ice-fringed branch, every sugared hazel leaf, every snow-crowned thistle, every alabaster birch, every silvered blade of grass wears its light on the outside.
In candlelit chiaroscuro, my friends sing to me in the languages of their childhood birthday parties: first a chocolate fudge chorus of Happy Birthday, then Zum Geburtstag viel Glück sprinkled with giggles, Joyeux Anniversaire à la mode, and for dessert a caramel-drizzled Cumpleaños Feliz. In Narnia it is always winter and never Christmas, but at least we have birthdays and ice-flowers to light the night.