I don’t notice the hoarfrost on my morning half-mile walk to work. The crystalline willows that line my street notice me and they don’t care if it is 7:00 or 10:00am but I do know that the sun hasn’t risen and spared me at least three hours of subarctic sunlight before the winter solstice.

I don’t see the hoarfrost because I feel it. The solid water gripping the baron limbs not necessarily killing it but yet not letting trees heal or grow. Time stops for the willow, resetting its structures, at the molecular level, putting them to sleep. A sleep I long for. Not the kind where I put the muzzle to my temple and squeeze. Click. Bang.

A crisp north breeze slaps me out of it, not necessarily out of spite, it’s because I need to breathe. The wind blankets the tundra gaining momentum as it burns when I inhale and causes dust to shoots out my nose when I exhale. It’s a trick I quickly learned – take shallow breaths in through your mouth and exhale the warm air through your nostrils. It only cost me ten intense nosebleeds to teach me.

A quarter-mile left. I look down when I walk with pierced eyes to stop my contacts from getting stuck to the conjunctiva. I can’t even risk a wince to see if the clouds cover the auroras or not. I am robbed of their beauty. I am unwelcomed here; the way invaders are greeted in combat zones.

I walk backwards to reduce the risk of windburns on my bare cheeks. I feel the wind driving me back to my home. It is then when I can see the hoarfrost.

I notice the sole street lamp polluting the night sky. The light makes the hoarfrost glimmer like glitter. I consider the willow, bending not breaking against the frigid wind. I consider the limbs not fighting the cold and using the hoarfrost as a blanket. I consider all of this because I know that just like there will be only a few hours of sunlight, in six months there will be only a few hours of darkness.

I turn around and finish my walk.

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