On A January’s Eve

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It was the twenty-first of January, a time of year that is usually characterized by ice-glazed snow piled along the streets and driveways, blackened slush that had thawed and re-frozen upon the medians, treacherous, gleaming-white ice where the roadways and walkways should be, and a lingering sense of dread at the thought of having to go outside for any reason. January is usually a dead month in Illinois, a period of time our minds record as an uneventful haze that bookmarks the long wait for spring to sound its trumpets of returning glory.

It didn’t look or feel a thing like January on this day. The air was mildly temperate, enough so that a coat was unnecessary. Breezes stirred and scattered the remaining leaves left behind by the previous fall, and the holdout birds who stay to weather through the winter leisurely picked at a meal they would normally have to fight the elements to attain.

The enchanting winter sunsets that all Illinoisans have come to expect still splashed and ran their watercolor shades across the sky. Inky scratches of bare trees plunged into the frame of glowing embers of daylight. We sat on the hill beside the pond, and the evening had fallen so quiet that we couldn’t bring ourselves to speak. Our eyes drank in this unusually serene scene, and we grew as still as the ground on which we sat. We watched a badger silently carve a V-shape through the surface of the water as he swam from the woods to his burrow on the opposite side of the pond. Flocks of Canadian geese passed overhead, honking their famous ballad all the way.

I snapped pictures from every angle around me, trying to capture this remarkable evening in an urn of immortality. A strange beauty, kept agelessly in a vessel for all eternity. Even as the roaring fire of golden sunlight died down into the black horizon, this sunset would never be doomed to an ending. This day goes on living in my mind, indexed by a collection of photographs.

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