A cloudy day of falling snow, followed by rain and freezing rain, then snow again. At sunset everything is rendered in dusky blues and taupe with flashes of deep red, burgundy and stormy purple. The setting sun is so bright it hurts the eyes. Paintings executed in such light look like photos, and photos captured in the same light look like paintings. One could be almost anywhere, but whoever she is, and wherever she is, she is dancing in liminal light, and she knows it.
What is odd on our winter rambles, pleasing and enchanting too, are the vistas which don't invite a thoughtful glance in other seasons - snow clad fence posts leaning their way across the hill and away into the distance, the enduring cedar of which they are made, its color, weathered texture and dry fragrance. Furrows carved in the nearby fields are as hard as iron under our boots. The dried mulleins, milkweeds and grasses blow to and fro in the wind, and they crackle in their oscillation.
Bare trees along the trail into the deep woods arch over our heads and flash silver as we trudge into the forest with our toboggans to fill wild bird feeders and leave apples for the deer. Sometimes the frozen trees and their dangling icicles ring like bells; at other times, they clatter like cymbals as we go along.
Something wonderful is here and waiting patiently to be known, but whatever that something is, it has yet to reveal itself. I suppose the truth is that I simply don't have the eyes to see it or the wits to comprehend what is right here in front of me and being held out in offering.
I am reading Carl Sagan's published work, and remember something he wrote in his masterpiece series and its companion book, both called Cosmos: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us -- there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
A new edition of Cosmos will be published in just a few days, and the book is already present in spirit on my library table. In the spring, there will also be a television offering titled Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. The new 13-part series is hosted by celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and it is going to be amazing.
What I have standing here on my hill is a sense of wonder and inexpressible joy in the universe, in the sky overhead, the earth under my wandering feet and everything around me. It is bitterly cold and windy, but wonder and joy prevail, and they go right to my heart and lungs, my blood and bones. Everything is real and connected, and it is all absolutely gorgeous. Like WOW.................
December 6, 2013
December 5, 2013
our trail is through newly fallen snow,
and every footfall's a waxing moon
our muffled steps rise and fall
through towering snow-drowned spruces,
hearts as one, in tune, in time
hearts as one, in tune, in time
goldenrod and milkweed,
great spruces weighted under snow—
all nod in early greeting
ghost choirs of summer grosbeaks
sing above our heads, icicles form
along roof lines as we pass
winter rounds the village out,
smooths the contours of house and street,
spinning rippled deserts out of snow
in morning softness, we know ourselves
at last—perfect, still and so complete
nothing abandoned or left behind
December 4, 2013
December 3, 2013
In the iron grip of another winter, we sometimes go into hibernation mode like bears, become insular, freeze up, close down and turn inward, away from the bitter season of long nights and the cold reality outside the windows.
We lock doors, pull draperies shut and crank up the heating apparatus, light a fire and huddle around the hearth, muttering about the state of the larder and our stash of firewood. We wait for days to lengthen again and the light to return. We do our best to tune out the presence of a season we look forward to for its crystalline beauty, but would prefer to be without once it arrives. It was ever thus.
There are things we do not remember in winter, and things we fail to understand. We forget the cold clear water flowing effortlessly along under all the ice and snow. We forget that fallen leaves trapped within the ice and snow were once green and living things, and that they will provide compost or nourishment for trees and leaves still to come. We focus grimly on moving snow out of our way, and we fail to understand that snow itself is an integral part of our path, that next year's leaves, flowers and fruit are sleeping snugly somewhere underneath it all.
Sometimes, a simple wild and organic truth comes flooding back into one's senses like the north wind or a fast running river, and even the slumbering trees seem to echo that truth as one looks up at their perfect snowy arches against the sky. There is so much to see that my eyes and lens are not sure where to go and what to focus on: Sky, sunlight, clouds, shadows, branches, roof, icicles???
However one feels about the long white season, to be here and truly present in winter is something special. This is the Old Wild Mother's creation, an interval of fruitful darkness in which new life, new ideas and new paths are conceived. Now and again, I pause in my travels (and neverending shoveling) to remember the Spring already on its way and the new life sleeping somewhere down under my winter boots, but most of the time, I forget. Whether the forgetfulness is something to do with my age, my tendency to get all wrapped up in the colors and shapes I am seeing, or just part of an elemental human condition, I haven't figured out.
December 1, 2013
There is snow on the ground this first morning of December, but temperatures are definitely in the minuses. It is cold and windy.
An icy wind rolls through the gutters and dances up the street. It ruffles snow in the hedgerows and swirls through the eaves of the little blue house in the village; it careens around corners, rattling the windows and furiously trying door latches in an effort to gain entry.
On such perfect blue days, it is almost a travesty to go walking around outside and disturbing the pristine snow expanses with our blundering footprints, but off we go at first light to see what we can see. We go out against the wind, warmly dressed and sensibly shod, but ardent of spirit, curious and open to whatever the day holds out for our consideration. The first thing we notice, Spencer and I, is that the wide fields above the river are deserted. Weary of freezing temperatures and wind and frustrated by their now frozen food supply, the geese have flown south. Their early departure harbingers a long cold winter this time around.
Then there are the wide expanses of blue before our eyes. Blue.... everything is blue this morning: river, sky and drifting clouds, old trees in their cloaks of popcorn snow, pools wearing skims of ice, village chimneys yielding up smoke. Who knew there were so many shades of blue in the world?
November 29, 2013
On a cold morning in the woods, simple truth sometimes comes flooding into one's senses like the north wind or a fast running river under its comforter of ice. Even the slumbering trees seem to echo that truth as one looks up at their perfect snowy arches against the sky. However one feels about the long white season, being here and truly present in winter is something to work on, something grand and noble and humbling, all at the same time.
The snow is like popcorn, intensely blue and spangled like stardust, heavy with moisture and falling in clouds of huge fluffy flakes - it fills the garden in its whirling dance and seems to give off its own clear and elemental light. Snow and blustering go together hand in hand, and the north wind has been playing its own blithe games, sculpting artful drifts and rippled slopes and even a spiral here and there.
It's the light that grabs me every time and in every season. No two snowflakes are alike of course, but who knew that they are filled with light? The myriad shades of blue on offer among my native hills are intoxicating, and the taste of fresh snow on my tongue is something to sing about.
November 28, 2013
the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.
The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it
over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.
Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
Across the gathering stillness
simply this: "For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful."
Lynn Ungar (from Blessing the Bread)