The stage was empty and quiet, yet warm and inviting with its mahogany wood covering the floor and walls. It sat in an alcove and decorated itself with naught but a simple wooden bench so matching the stage itself that only the interruption of the plank lines gave away its presence.
With a sudden whistling air, swirls of snowflakes blew in across the field of view, covering the stage with a blanket of snow, the alcove melting to a frozen landscape from which naked young trees and bushes sprouted, their limbs crowned with snow and home for the robins and waxwings who’d wandered in. They were fat with ruffled feathers against the cold, hopping about in the hopeful search of a morsel. It was Winter’s turn to present her case. In she stepped upon the scene, the folds of her Classical robe wrapping her from head to toe as she stood amongst the branches, a Mucha’s muse.
“You think me cold and heartless, frigid in affection and void of emotion. You say my skin is as pale as death, and no warmth am I able to bestow. Yet Summer, not I, is more heartless by far, spreading lies of my nature and incites men to lusting after her long after she is gone, blowing kisses of promise and spinning memories of her long evenings. She causes them to forget her scorching embrace, once I have done the work of cooling their fevered brows.
Spring and Autumn are fickle mistresses, stealing lovers from my arms, and planting thoughts of dread at my coming. They are merely sprites and faeries of mischief, playing at the emotions of men in my disfavour. See them flit to and fro, not knowing what to be, whether cool or warm, dry or damp. Spring lures away with pale and temporary flowers, which bloom today and tomorrow are lost, while Autumn dances in the falling leaves, painting death in glorious shade of yellow and red.
I do not cavort like the others, who allow their robes to fall away and flow in the wind, uncovering their heads and exposing their flesh. I have few followers, who stay with me and comfort my loneliness during the time of my work. I do not ask for pity, nor do I wish for raucous celebrations. I am stoic, steadfast and demure, as many rely on me to be, despite their complaints. I clothe the earth when it is naked, I give it a blanket for its rest. If I remove my hood, and thus cause that pure white blanket to melt away before its time, there is despair at the sight of death that Autumn has carelessly tossed aside, and fear in remembering the dry, difficult times when Summer was spiteful and would not allow rain to fall and quench the earth from her scorching embrace. So I replace my hood, lest man become disappointed in their waiting for Spring, who takes her time and only appears when she deigns to begin her passage.
I give the world its quiet rest; I sing it a soothing lullaby. Man huddles in his warm abode, I give him excuse to cease his constant toil, and to enjoy the family he has often missed. I bring warmth to the heart, the wish of the clothed to see their unclothed brothers warmed by hearth and stove. Lovers embrace, and songs are sung, and I accompany though I am shut outside, or listen in muted silence. I hold whispers against my breast, secrets and wishes told to the awe-giving snow. I bring into season the berries and foods to feed my loyal friends, and protect the grasses which escaped Autumn’s grasp. I bring not death, but rest, rebirth and renewal. Do not fear me, but do not be foolish in your love. My ways are stern, and unforgiving. I am not for the weak of heart or will, but if you will open yourself to follow me, you would see the beauty in my work, and the truth in my words.”
Winter paused in her speech, bending to scoop a bird into her hands. She kissed its head, warming it in her tender embrace before releasing it, watching it wing its way through the clear skies. Sighing lightly, she sat upon the bench, a bank of snow at the foot of a young tree.
In the Solstice & Equinox, the ethereal crossroads of the seasons and a traveller’s inn on their journeys, three other muses sat each one on their own dais, surrounded by their attendants. Spring, reclined on a soft moss bed and surrounded by flowers, turned a deaf ear to Winter’s plea as she strummed her small harp, the tune of dripping water and light breeze floating delicately up from it. Autumn, on her bed of leaves, surrounded by a harvest gathered by the hands of men rather than her own, wore a look of ease as her followers regaled her with the feast. Summer had rocked herself to sleep in a hammock, her work long done, her dreams filled with seasons to come, of her worshippers hailing her return.
Winter stood and walked into the distance, disappearing over the horizon of snow. The scene faded, and the stage stood empty once more.