What an unexpected gift they can be, these bitterly cold and diamond bright days when sunlight shines through clouds and lights on the snow blowing across these hills and through the spruce trees on the ridge.
There I was a few days ago on the northern slope of my favorite hill, trying to trace the contours of the north wind with my own two eyes, trying to capture it with a camera and commit it to digital memory so that I might paint it some day soon. One cannot actually see the wind of course, but rather the swirling choreography and elemental movements of its pas de deux with the season. Now and then I caught a glimpse, and it was grand and humbling, all at the same time.
Never mind that my hood was pulled up all the way, that I was wrapped up in every warm garment I possessed to hold the deep cold at bay and keep out the very same wind I was trying to grasp with my lens. I looked for all the world like a yeti or an inukshuk out there among the shifting clouds of blowing snow and ice crystals.
I whispered descriptive words like a mantra, and somehow or other, they conferred a sense of comfort and balance on an icy day in January - winter, sunshine, hills and sleeping trees, frost, ice and blowing snow.
The merest suggestion of light on a winter morning is a fine thing, and I sometimes think that if I stand out here long enough, I might be able to embrace the poignant stillness that the fine American poet Wallace Stevens called "the mind of snow". I have, however, a very long way to go. The mind may have longed for a moment of snowy kensho this week, but it also craved firelight and warmth and a large mug of Darjeeling tea.