31.1.07

Winter Sidewalks

Sidewalks in winter take on an affect entirely their own. As water freezes, it cleansing properties disappear, in much the same way that grit and sand do not. Things stick, and accumulate, while people start moving at faster paces, no longer willing to dawdle, stroll, amble, meander, &c. Sidewalks in winter -- or winterwalks -- are lonely places.


This sidewalk displays the accumulation of snow, which the gentleman pictured is rapidly trying to remove with a shovel. This is a common practice in parts of the Twin Cities, and less common in others. It is possible that these areas of shoveled walks develop in conjuction with each other, as the chances of shoveling seem to rise according to the proximity to already-shoveled sidewalks. As each individual shovels a section of walk, in increases the sidewalk peer pressure on each remaning show-choked stretch, so that entire blocks are likely to be shoveled or unshoveled in large-scale units. You have to keep shoveling to keep up with the Joneses.


Though winterwalks are less likely to bear traffic, those steps that are taken are more visible. The long-term traffic patterns are suddenly laid out before the naked eye. Which walks are popular? Where is the walk less traveled by? How many people passed, and how long ago? Suddenly the neighborhood doesn't seem so empty.


Snow isn't the only thing that accumulates on winter sidewalks. Other things can stick to their surfaces: shoes, mittens, rubbish, foodstuffs... all frozen in time, arrested in their moments of careless, carless clarity. This shoe sits along a curb. How did it free itself from its rightful foot?


Beacuse the Twin Cities are unusually cold for a place at 45 degrees latitude, we get a great deal of sun in the wintertime. Days are relatively long, and the typical sky is a clear, pale blue. The far-off sun casts shadows on its canvas of white snow, forming elaborate shadowplays of divots and dimples. At a certain hour, our shadows assume the long, gaunt aspect of those cowboys that go from the 16:9 ratio of the big screen to the 4:3 confines of the television set.

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