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The Harvard February: Winter Vignettes by Crimson Arts

A snowy scene of Harvard in the winter.
A snowy scene of Harvard in the winter. By Angel Zhang

As the darkness of February looms over Cambridge, several Harvard students reflect on the subtleties of a dormant nature, memories long past, and how to find the light in the darkness of winter. Here’s how Crimson Arts seeks beauty in the unexpected:

How to Survive the Harvard February: From a Floridian Freshman

Invest in a good pair of gloves and hat — preferably the color of a rusty June sun. Warmth starts in the fingers: Make a cup of tea. Watch the leaves bloom red in steaming water. Read the poem that feels like the first snowfall of the year. Memorize the look of your wind-tousled hair and red nose. This is living. Call a friend from back home and tell them to describe the sun where they are. Ask your dad why he believes in G-d. Exercise. Learn to love February’s silence and its noise, equally. Walk the Charles at sunset, admire the way it curves into the distance. Go to the Harvard Art Museums and find summer in the paintings. Slow down. Send your mom a photo of a snow-coated John Harvard. Feel the weight of your backpack against your coat. Remember that education knows no seasons. Hold a door for a stranger. Let them join you in the warmth. Savor a hug. Pay a compliment. Stay up another hour laughing. Defrost the world.

—Caroline J. Rubin

The Silver Linings of the Gloomy Days

Hoodies, snow boots, and finding reasons to not leave Winthrop House are my definitions of February. As it gets dark and gloomy by 5 p.m., we have to find the beauty in that darkness.

The cold weather gives me an excuse to wear a sweater or turtleneck, allowing me to pretend that I actually meant to dress business casual for my classes. February means looking forward to treating myself to discount chocolates from CVS with Valentine's Day just around the corner. While I may not want to leave my dorm when it's under 30°F outside, I do get to see my wonderful roommates a whole lot more.

—Hailey E. Krasnikov

A Journey of Chasing That Splash of the Sun

A couple of seconds after I created this document, I closed my laptop. Was it laziness? Sure. But, also, the sun was out. How could I not enjoy the sun now? I glanced quickly at my watch and calculated how many minutes of sunshine I had before sunset.

The light fooled me; it was not as warm as I thought it would be. I should have kept writing. My winter coat wore me down, my intense cough concerned me, and I was so close to abandoning my idea of a winter river walk and returning to the warmth of a dreary campus library.

February is simply put unpredictable. Yet that’s a hopeful thing when you know that we’re straying away from the cold winter: It is this unpredictability that will always force me to put my homework in my yellow backpack every time I see a clear sky or force me to think that the weather app on my phone may be wrong when it says it will be 30°F tomorrow. Anything is possible in February.

—Olga Kerameos

Backyard Adventure

With the sun rising just after 7 a.m. and setting around 5 p.m., I spent most Februaries in high school staying inside when the sun was up. Rushing to the ice rink for my 4:55 a.m. practice and leaving school late after band rehearsal, I was lucky if I even saw the faintest hues of an impending sunrise or the remaining traces of sunset from the school parking lot.

When I returned home from school, my father would also return home from work. He is never one to sit around and takes advantage of any opportunity to go outside. If there was enough snow, he would often eagerly bundle up and go cross country skiing on the trails just around the corner from our house. A few times, I pushed aside my evening work and joined him out in the fields. Our headlamps illuminated the ski tracks, trampled from the many dogs and walkers who traveled on the path since the last snowfall.

Kick, glide, pole. Kick, glide, pole. Kick, glide, pole.

Climbing up our back steps and kicking the snow off from my boots before entering the mudroom, I always returned more centered than I was before — happy to have spent time outside and with my dad, even if only under the artificial halos of our headlamps.

—Hannah M. Wilkoff

Vivacity in the Stagnancy of Winter

I, for one, am a fan of the Harvard February. As a winter baby, I’ve come to see the times we think of as most dreary as the times to be most grateful for life. With that in mind we should devote ourselves to the things that make us feel most alive during the stagnant winter months. For me, one of those things is dedicating time to self-preservation and investing in the little things that spark joy, whether it be finally finishing the scarf I have been crocheting since September, rewatching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to remind myself that I still have childlike wonder. The Harvard February is a time for us to reward ourselves for our existence.

—Marley E. Dias

Like a Rain Dance but for Snow

It’s hard to romanticize February in Boston. The sun hides from the cold just like the rest of us, arriving fleetingly and running at the first hint of night. The wind joins in too, egging on the chill by infiltrating the smallest of coat holes relentlessly throughout the day. Going indoors takes five minutes each time — peeling off layers of coats, vests, and hats one by one.

At the same time, there’s a sort of solace in the rituals of a deep Boston winter — the same ones that us local students have been performing since elementary school when we would spend ten minutes putting on boots and snow pants and hats and mittens just to have a snowball fight at lunch recess for the same amount of time. Memories persist of deep blizzards that seemed to silence the world — storms during which even the birds stopped singing to respect nature’s rest.

If anything, February in Boston is a reminder of how warm the things you love can keep you. For every moment spent walking in the bitter cold to the dorm of a friend, the hug of arrival feels all the more more welcoming. In February, a warm muffin is enough to make your morning, and a fireplace brightens a whole day. The world may freeze over and embrittle, but somehow the little joys you surround yourself with leave you feeling warmer than any other time of the year.

—Alessandro M. M. Drake

Some Winter Thoughts

You hear the sounds of hard-soled boots on cold concrete and smell the wet earth in the cold air. The white cotton pillows you left on the radiator to be warm for the night absorb the light of the sun. The planted palms in the basket press against the cold metal screen of the window, aching for warmth. The brush of cold winds whisks through the bare branches, over the blades of wilted grass, splashing water as they rip across the river, under the old brick bridge. You see the pointed ears of the attentive dog and pause. You watch the squirrel scratching into the bark of a tree, breathing quickly. Your thought diverts. You think the black cherry tree must be decades, if not centuries, old. You go on a weekend outing to the sea. You watch the rippling water from the old wooden harbors and bays. There are boarded up cottages, dusted in dry salt. You walk down the cold sidewalk at night and listen to the quiet. Your eyes glaze through the reflection of the street lamps on the dark puddles. You hear splashing water. Then you don’t.

—Thomas A. Ferro

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