On a fairly busy street in Warsaw – Poland‘s capital city – I watched a woman in the distance emerge from around the corner with a bouquet of red roses in her gloved hand.
On this day in which the calendar declared it was officially the first day of spring, the bitter reality was that winter was still upon us. It was one of the coldest days of the year, and new snow had fallen over the past two days. There was no hint of spring, not even a sprouting bud on any of the long bare trees that line sidewalks near the Warsaw University of Medicine in the neighborhood known as Ochota.
This part of Ochota teems with young students – fresh-faced future doctors – on their way to learn if they have what it takes to be doctors. On some days, even in the dead of winter, what young people choose to wear – fashion wins over cold common sense – befuddles. But not on this day. Everybody was bundled up, with scarves, hats, proper shoes and hoodies pulled tightly over heads. On this day, despite the appearance of the sun, the Siberian express that had crept across much of Poland like a slowly advancing fog, was not to be denied. Oh yes, earlier in the morning there was also – gasp – fog.
So far, everybody that I’ve talked to has said it is unusual to see snow or to be this cold so late into March. Not that I am some sort of expert – I am every bit new to Poland – but seems to me wherever there is winter, March has always been a winter month.
Ahead, the woman paused on the sidewalk that stretches for more than two city blocks. In one quick movement, as if to avoid notice, she then jammed the stems of the roses into the glistening snow, took one step back, looked at red roses, and walked off, lost in the crowd of medical students waiting for a city bus.
When I reached the flowers
I noticed that they were already wilted. But they still looked very beautiful against the white of the snow – red roses seemingly and curiously springing from a snowfield.
I will likely never know the woman’s reason for putting the roses in the snow. Was it a homage to first day of spring? Could it have been her way of sending a message to Mother Nature to get over her winter blues and at once make way for spring? Or was she perhaps making some sort of offering to the weather gods to replace the snow with flowers in full bloom? Or was it just a simple act of sharing – to have others enjoy flowers she had already enjoyed, rather than toss the droopy bouquet into the trash? Many questions, no answers.
I for one appreciated the gesture. I stood there, for a moment forgetting the bitter cold, and inspected the frosty red petals – and every sad leaf and determined thorn. Then, I too, walked away – but not before snapping a few photos.
No sooner had I walked away, I was struck with another reality, as an unleashed dog, the owner standing by, walked up to the bouquet of roses, sniffed them, and then lifted his leg and peed all over them. Goodbye nice-smelling roses. Goodbye white snow.
As I faced the rest of the day, what was I left with? Some in this world heal. Others create, often beauty. And there are those ready to piss on it all.
For them, a smile.
- Photographing Snow (nastassiadavis.wordpress.com)