The atmosphere has changed. It is neither heavy nor light, neither joyous nor sorrowful, most days. The sun's light has trouble piercing through the clouds. Even today I cannot see it, but the air is brighter. I can feel the sun beyond the chilled horizon. The south winds blow bitter and coldly, but there is solace in the light. The concrete city, painted white by ash, gleams with an unfamiliar warmness - a warmness that was, perhaps, familiar once; the fires blazing in the midst of a slow and peaceful winter. The coldness itself is what is warm, for the memories of warmness that it brings. The atmosphere has changed. There is warmth found in an endless sea of grey. The winter itself is a beacon of comfort. But just for today.
The ash falls like memory; for a second I see snowflakes, floating timidly down, light glimmering on their white-rendered fractal designs, hand-crafted crystals falling like dryad's tears onto the grey concrete. But it has always been ash - cold, coarse ash - and it dissolves into finest dust to be blown harshly away by the frost-bitten winds. The children, with red-faced glee and gloved hands still play, clothes powdered with the snow that, today, they believe with full conviction to be playing in. It has always been ash, but today that does not matter. The atmosphere has changed. Ash is snow. The long-since planted fruits of sorrow are the greatest thing on earth. But just for today.
The church still stands proudly, though painted grey by time and ash, taller than the world around it. It is empty, closed and silent, and there is not a glimmer of light penetrating its dusty stained glass windows, most days. Today it is alive and aflame with the movement of souls. They seem different, though their faces are the ones I have always known. Each carries something with them - gifts, food and provisions, objects of no importance, yet of great importance to their bearers. The chordal clatter of boot-clad feet on the old cobblestone steps reaches my ears before the great lights shine out of the windows, turned into rainbows by the hued tint of the glass. I can hear the chiming of the iron church bells, from the ancient bell tower where no chime has rung for as long as anyone cares to remember. The atmosphere has changed. The long-dead shell has been granted life. The hall of gloom is now a haven of rest. But just for today.
Inside it is a sylvan spring, bathed in the azure blue of a hundred tiny electric spirits throbbing in an endless, ecstatic hum. Their trickling light fills the airspace around and beneath the old steeple; the waterfall chorus of angels emanating from their sparkling waters. From here I can feel the fireflies flicker gaily beyond the windows, reveling in the warmth of the lights and the songs they are weaving. Ancestral hymns that were almost lost to the autumnal decay of memory; forgotten. Yet today, the ash has fallen to remind them. The atmosphere has changed. The spirits dance among us. Light and colour live, breathe and sing the ancient songs. But just for today.
Their voices have changed and they sit closer; the people that gather here, eating, drinking and laughing on the pews and sidelines where the festive lights are being hung. Where the scowls and tear-trails of yesterday tore their sorrowed faces now hangs the faint semblances of smile. There is talk, not of duty or pain, but of nothing - sweetest nothings. Talk of memory and of each other. The old no longer sit with yellowed eyes and stare, but play with the younger ones on the floor building angular towers out of bricks and scrap steel. The clouded, coloured windows have nothing beyond them, for all that matters in the world lies within the four cracked, grey walls. No care is given for joy, no time is spared for love, most days. Today, however, the atmosphere has changed. The ash no longer burns the heart. Gifts and love flow from hands unlocked by the turning of the year. The old have become young and smile like they always did. Peace reigns underneath the noble gaze of the soft-eyed bronze statue above, and for once, there is not struggle, nor striving, nor loss, nor gain. There is only beautiful, simple comfort.
But just for today.