Thursday, December 13, 2018

December 13, 2018 - So Much Winter

Although the official calendar tells us the season has not quite begun yet, winter comes early to us here.  Those who think there is a lack in winter simply do not pay attention.  There is abundance everywhere you look.  You need only open your eyes.  Each pine needle is lavishly coated in ice.  Not just the pinecones.  Not just the bark or the branches.  But every single needle is coated in its own sheath of shiny, perfect ice.  No pine needle is skipped over or forgotten.  Each is loved by the winter.

Sheaths of ice.
And so it is with everything:  The thick coat of white from the snow, which is continually renewed.  The children play games and build forts and ice skate on the frozen pond.  Layer upon layer of ice coats the fields and hills and mountains, and it will continue to grow and build all winter long.  Then when springtime comes, it will all melt and flow downward toward the sea, washing the land as it goes and preparing it for spring planting.

There is the intense green of the pines against the bright blue of the sky, colors we often forget about or take for granted in our search for hothouse flowers.  But how lucky we are to have them!  And there are the bright red feathers of the cardinals as they jump from tree to tree in search of seeds and old berries.  They contrast brilliantly against the blue feathers of the blue jays and the white feathers of the old snowy owls.

There are warm homes with smoke curling out of the chimneys and brightly lit fires in the woodstoves and fireplaces, of which we have an abundance here in Maine.  There is the old pot on the woodstove simmering away with beans or broth, perfuming the air with a good meal yet to come.  There is bread cooling on the counter in the kitchen and clean wet clothes drying on racks and makeshift clotheslines in the far rooms.  There are oil lamps clean and shiny and ready to be lit when the sun goes down.

There are hot cookies and hot cocoa and friends stopping by with holiday goodies.  There is a snowman melting in the yard, but that is okay because he will be back soon.  Perhaps he is the ultimate perennial winter flower.  There is the half-finished scarf lying on the side table, waiting to be picked up and worked on again when the mood (or need) strikes.  There are happy pets and chickens still laying an egg here and there, even in the cold winter.

There is so much abundance, so much goodness.  There is so much winter.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 6, 2018 - Ice Mirror


ice mirror
cold and crisp and clear
with frozen bony fingers
reflecting colder skies
still and grey and wintry
with no color of its own
masquerading as life
jealous and brittle and still
trapping leaves beneath the surface
the former symbols of Sun
held in a frozen embrace
in a seemingly timeless Winter
until Spring shatters the spell

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 4, 2018 - The Next Step

The wooden footbridge is none too steady, even in the summertime.  It is old and ought to be replaced, but time enough for that another day.  Now its planks, waterlogged and swollen and alternating between frozen and unfrozen, are downright dangerous.  There are a few spots that are bare, which the snow has filled in somewhat and made appear solid, but I know they are there so I walk gingerly and choose my steps with care.

The bridge across.
It is like anything in life, I suppose.  You make do.  Adapt.  Adjust.  Speculate.  And finally, you simply trust.  If you make it across, you smile and whistle and keep on going.  If you fall through, you pull yourself up, dry off as best as you can, head for shelter quickly, make alternate plans, and keep on going.  But if you wait for the perfect time, you might find yourself waiting a lifetime.  There never seems to be a perfect time.

I step out on the bridge and hear a creak.  Which board is next?  Ah, yes, this one.  I am sure of it.  I try to keep my mind out of it though, because my mind will just interfere and try to throw logic in.  In this kind of situation, logic truly needs to take the backseat.  I let my feet remember what to do because they have done it many times before.  If I just keep my thoughts silent, my feet miraculously know what to do.  Still, each step is taken gingerly, feeling a bit before putting my full weight down.  There is a way around this spot but it takes too long.  I do not have enough daylight left.

And suddenly I am across.  This time.  The sun shines brightly as it heads toward the tree line so early in the afternoon these days.  I should make haste before it gets dark, but I can linger just a bit and smile at my luck.  We will play the game again next time, I silently tell the bridge.  The bridge just smiles.  It can afford to wait.  It knows that eventually my luck will run out.  But today is not that day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November 20, 2018 - Keep Going

Dealing with life’s difficulties as they come is part of a good life.  Slip under the tree.  Jump over the root ball.  I bundle up and keep warm from the assault of snow and wind, and I tie my scarf snugly around my neck.  The trunk hangs by a section of bark, and soon it will crash down across the path.  Then I will climb over the tree, and I will keep going.  Always, I will keep going.  It’s what I do.  Failure is not an option.

Monday, November 19, 2018

November 19, 2018 - Forest Fog

If I were to walk in, should I leave a trail of bread crumbs, or would the hungry birds follow me secretly and undue all of my good effort?  My own footprints in the snow cannot be trusted as they shift with those of the other animals, and new snow fills them up not long after they are made.  Little pebbles, perhaps, or ribbons tied to trees?  How does one get out of the forest fog?

The will-o'-the-wisp beckons.
Like our minds at times, shapes drift into and out of focus.  Where did I leave that letter?  I am certain it was hidden in this chest.  The fog swirls around and around.  Perhaps it is just past that glen.

The Lord of Winter grows in strength and power.  We hear tales of Him in the wind as it sighs and moans around a bend, the trees clicking their bony fingers above in mockery.  Enchantment lies ahead.  The frozen forest gives its lonely call, and the will-o’-the-wisp just inside leads unwary travelers to unknown ends.  The bread crumbs on the path are now long forgotten.  Beware.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 7, 2018 - Turning

The Sun still plays that game, “Remember when we used to . . .?”  And we smile.  Yes, we still remember.  The days were warmer then, and we spent every day together in the glow, picking flowers, listening to birdsong, and chasing butterflies.  We did not know how full our plate was then but instead groaned when yet another dish was placed upon the table.

Now He appears much later in the morning and further to the south.  His climb across the heavens is quicker and lower, forgetting all about the passing over and crossifying of the sky that heralded those days of growth and plenty.  It is enough that He simply brightens the day now, and we do not ask for warmth and growth we cannot have.

Cannot have?  “But He promised us!” you say.  Yes, indeed, He did.  Those promises were written in little love letters in an ancient language we have long since forgotten, enclosed by our elder green brethren in tiny pods, each a world unto itself.  They fall from the stricken branches now on to the cold, wet Earth, and She quickly devours them like a hungry wolf.  Now is the time for planting, not in the Spring but now!

The great wheel in the sky keeps turning, and we follow the shadows it casts on the old stone wall.

Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5, 2018 - The Ghost Portion

It’s all starting to fade into the ghost world again.  The greenery leaves us.  I don’t know where it goes.  It just gets poured out and becomes empty, and nothing takes its place.  There’s a void, and it’s getting larger.  There’s no telling how big the nothingness will become, but we can rest assured that it will be a great deal of nothing, and that’s always a lot.

The dam that wasn't.

The old dam gets more holes in it every year.  Trees grow out of it and sometimes through it, and the water just mocks it.  Water is ill-behaved at best, and that’s no secret.  New little waterfalls crop up every year, and each year they get bigger and bigger, threatening to smash the confines of the old levee.  Someday the whole thing will just burst and wash away, like a giant beaver’s dam flowing down the river, and people will point to it and say, “Oh, dear!  What will we do now?” to which I will respond, “The same thing we have always done.” 

Nothing.  We will do nothing.  It’s November.  It’s time for the ghost portion of the year.  We will do nothing.

Friday, October 5, 2018

October 5, 2018 - The Lesson of the Foliage

Not to be outdone by any of the Spring or Summer flowers, the trees patiently wait and save their magic until the former are exhausted.  Only then do they show their true colors, and the flowers, now exhausted and weary, bow their heads in defeat.  They tell themselves that next year will be different, that next year they will ration their beauty, but they lie.

Tree magic.

That burst of energy and power the trees had when they exploded with green in the Spring now ebbs and finally is cut off.  Power shared is power lost, after all, and it is time to think inward.  It is time to hunker down and conserve what energy is left.  The trees complain and say that they are completely spent, that they have nothing more to give, but they lie.

It is a game each plays of feigning inferiority while all along beating their chests in a smug bravado.  And why shouldn’t they?  If you’ve got it, flaunt it.  Beauty is fleeting, so seize the day and enjoy what you have while you have it.  Then when you are passed over as being completely spent and useless, shine with the hidden brilliance you hoarded away for just such an occasion.  This is the lesson of the foliage.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

October 2, 2018 - The Old Stump

There is not much left to this old tree stump.  I visit it every year to see how its demise is coming along.  “I am dying very well,” it says to me whenever I ask.  And this is, of course, true.  Tree stumps are incapable of lying.  All around it fall the brightly colored leaves full of last-minute joy, and the moss grows at the base, living among dead things.

Dying well.

I am reminded of how much we need this contrast of life and death.  The season of plenty gave us too much plenty.  At first we rejoiced.  Then we relaxed.  Finally, we languished.  Is this all there is?  We did not even see how full our plates were anymore.  How can you know fullness if you do not know emptiness?

But the Sun King has weakened once again, falling back to the West.  His fingers do not stretch as far as they used to, and he no longer burns us in chastisement for our lazy entitlement.  Soon, he will be all but gone.  I have heard the drums in the forest.  They are coming for him.

Meanwhile, the squirrels scurry frantically, storing away as much food as possible.  They at least can appreciate what they have.  Soon we, too, will be full of appreciation—but for what we have lost, not for what we have now.  Winter looms in the near distance, another obstacle on the path.  Another season of emptiness to give us blessed comparison and renew our hope through death.  It occurs to me that perhaps there are no obstacles on the path after all.  Perhaps the obstacles are the path.