Here we are on the cusp between winter and springtime, weary of ice and snowdrifts, craving light and warmth. It is still below freezing much of the time, an icy wind scouring the bare trees and making the branches ring like old iron bells. That is to be expected—springtime is a puckish wight this far north, and after appearing, she sometimes disappears for days and weeks at a time.
For all the seasonal toing and froing, late March days have their own elemental enchantment, a wonderful way of quieting one's thoughts and breathing, taking her back to a still and reflective space in the heart of things.
I sat on a log in the woods a few days ago and watched as tattered quartos of birch bark fluttered to and fro in the north wind. When the morning sun slipped out from behind the clouds, beams of sunlight passed through the blowing scraps, magnifying their gold and rendering them translucent, for all the world like elemental stained glass or prayer flags dancing in the blue sky.
When I touched the old tree, my fingers came away with a dry springtime sweetness on them that lingered for hours. I tucked a thin folio of bark in the pocket of my parka and inhaled its fragrance all the way home.