Hazy Shade of Winter


The first proper LP I ever got not counting kids’ stuff (and I’m talking true LP of the vinyl persuasion) was the Bangles’ ‘Different Light’. It was my introduction to pop music, and a finer one I cannot think of. In the mid-eighties, just as I was entering my adolescence, the Bangles sang ‘Manic Monday’ and ‘If She Knew What She Wants’ and ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and I could do nothing but give myself over to the saccharine melodies and nutra-sweet harmonies. But this post is not about that record, nor any of those songs. This post is about a later song: their cover of a Simon & Garfunkel tune, ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’.

Time, time, time, See what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please…
Look around, leaves are brown, and the sky is a hazy shade of Winter…

Several years after bopping about to a different light, I took a turn into darker territory, and the rocking richness of this song. Winter-themed, cold and cruel in its poetic lyrics, it provided a soundtrack to the maelstrom of emotions that growing up and letting go stirred so violently. I just remember being angry, feeling trapped, and wanting only to run away. I bounded down the stairs, taking the last six or seven in one vicious jump, pounding down as hard as I could, daring the floor to open up and take me into its bowels.

I ran from a house where no one could understand me – no… worse – I ran from a house where nobody cared to understand me. I ran from those who did not care to listen, from those who would never listen, from those who only wanted me to shut up and be silent. I ran from the secrets and the shame and the lies, from all that ever did hurt me and from all that ever would hurt me. At the top of the street I stopped to catch my breath. Without a coat, without a hat, without a pair of gloves, my breath heaved forth in gusts of light gray. Water ran from my eyes, from cold or hurt I could not tell. My ears burned red, and I didn’t dare to cup them with my hands. Slowly, I was freezing ~ shutting down, waiting to limp, and then fall, and then break.

I looked down at the house where I grew up. It appeared smaller from the top of the street, just another house in the row that lined the road. I pictured summer again, when the trees would be covered in green, when the lawns would be verdant and soft. I imagined the scent of sweet flowering shrubs carried on a breeze simultaneously tinged with the fancy of freshly-mown grass. And then I saw the day that actually was – this dismal day of early January, maybe even the first of the year, starting everything off so wrongly.

 Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me?

When there’s nothing left to do, and you’ve exhausted all possibilities, you can always run. Even if you don’t get very far, the act of running can, for a moment, save you. It can put you off from doing something you might regret. It can stop you from saying something you shouldn’t say. It can force your body to focus on anything but the pain surging through your heart. On that day, at the brutal beginning of another winter, I ran… and ran… and ran… until I didn’t hurt any more.

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