What an unexpected gift they can be, bitterly cold and diamond bright days when sunlight shines through the clouds, lights on the snow blowing across these hills, sparks through spruce trees high on the ridge.
I was on the northern slope of a favorite hill a few days ago, trying to trace the contours of the north wind with my eyes, to capture it with a camera so that I can paint it some day soon when I am a little stronger. One cannot actually see the wind of course, but from time to time, one can glimpse the swirling choreography and elemental movements of its pas de deux with the season. Now and then I did, 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 and trying in vain to hold the deep cold at bay, to keep out the same wind I was trying to capture with my lens. I looked for all the world like a yeti or an inukshuk out there among the clouds of blowing snow and ice crystals, but I would not have been anywhere else for all the world.
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.