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Here in western Washington, winters are mainly mild, and signs of spring often emerge by late January. Snowdrops and the green tips of daffodils, the bright mating plumage of year-round birds, a squirrel with a mouthful of dry leaves for nest-building–I note these and other signals of winter’s wane, long before it yields its icy grip on the midwest, the mid-Atlantic, and New England.

The price of this bargain is low light, in both day length and relative sunless-ness. A run of 60 cloudy days–with or without rain or snow–is commonplace between late November and January’s end. Winter solstice, the shortest day, was eight hours and 25 minutes long last year. My 120-square-foot studio’s pitched, north-facing skylight–though dear to me, always–misses out entirely during the low arc of winter’s pale sun.

What sort of work does this pensive light beget? Paintings heavy with white and gray paint, nested with small, hopeful bursts of color. Drawings of abstract botanicals: my year-round meditation. Their simple leaves in complex tangles are my asemic marks, hoping spring into being.


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