December thirteenth. North Carolina. I hear a tree frog click. Fire crack. The same dog over and over. A layered silhouette of trees against tees misled me into thinking I can glimpse the shape of the gully in front of me. Hard wooded. Known to house turkeys. One fat cornfed squirrel.
I blame the calendar for most problems. They make it too easy to wait. The calendar always made me late. Mark one a holy day. People sacrifice hundreds of others preparing for it. Marking them off as they get in their way. Weak days.
With seasons, on the other hand, we are ahead of the game. Like tonight. It isn’t even winter yet. And already, it’s spring.
Gentle wind rocks the front porch swing. Metal clinks.
Ghosts chained to the roof grow restless in powder-coated bonds.
Water in three forms squat between here and the moon.
Stars laugh at how close we are to too far away.
Sounds like summer. Not yet spring. Disappointed toads.
Crawled out of the muck too soon. Can relate.
Darker than a dry dark. A sopping wet and soggy dark.
Deeply stained. Saturated. Saturday. Night.
There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.
It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.
That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.
Wheels are not really ideal for snow.
Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.
A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.
A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.
Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.
White fields framed by nighttime trees. And city orange.
Awash in fluorescent yellow. Eyes can leap where feet will never go.
And leave oval footsteps in undriven snow. Covering many miles though.
Eyes begin to tread slow. Chug like four engines no lack of motive through frozen scenes.
Ice lined creeks and snow buried streams.
A pond any old sinner could walk on.
Stalked by great fractured double u’s formed of flocks of geese.
The hungry sound made by their thousands of beaks and wings.
Throats like hard rubber.
Navy blue cap pulled down over ears pierced by studded stars.
And that great gauged bone colored earlobe of a moon.
At the outset of winter. Seems the sun gets snuffed too soon.
Makes street lights sparkle embers on the ends of extinguished wicks.
A trickle of waxy smoke in our breath.
Town lights go on as far as eyes can see.
And stars. And snow fields. Stuck ponds.
And dark clouds that honk loud as cars.
They go on much farther.
Miles past eyes can see.
I like changing seasons. Any transition. Humid and stifling hot to cold dry wet. Finally, too cold to enjoy it, just the way I like it. It’s feeling trapped in long drawn out seasons that taxes too far.
The spring following winter thaws a heart same as land, and the cooler breeze and falling leaves of autumn is a fan against a sweating cheek. See how quickly it changes. The same heat we evaded, hated over summer, burning in a brushfire. In the midst of transition, I find it hard to not imagine, think deeply on, how transitory and easily adaptable my sense of value is. Not one day after the colder air arrives at the end of summer, and my mind is on fire.
All my energy for farming, gardening, turns rapidly to sawing, splitting, sawing and more splitting, until several piles form, covered, weeks of warmth, and a constant hobby of feeding flame and tending to coals in order to occupy myself. The inescapable heat, left behind by weeks, leaves a stinking sweat soaked memory still rank, dripping in my mind. Turned cold by the seasonal shift so easily the heat is sought after soon again, but this time, at last, under my control.
Summer heat can’t be escaped. Even if the air conditioner runs twenty four hour days, all the air in the house chilled, cold as a refrigerator, the season burns power bills. Shining far too brightly, singeing finances red instead of skin, harshly just the same. But just now, the world provides the chill so desperately exhausting the dying metal box in the window.
Heat reintroduced at leisure. A little dry tender in a fire for comfort. A cat laid in a windowsill, basked in the warmth of it. Finally at the end of a long season on the run chasing shade. Inspired by the cold to once again seek out the sun.
Time is about to pick up pace and not slow down.
Until autumn starts to settle its yellow orange red brown crown,
this is the realm of the sun. And long lines of cracked dust
gold arch counting isolated clouds wilting shade from above
days have only just begun. Raining almost every sort of thing but water.
Yellow ejaculate off shamefully quiet, rouged leaved oak trees,
wood ash off brushfires, the voices off birds and little fluff balls
off wood ducks crash thirty odd smooth feet onto leaves,
day light and bright stars fighting for positions in forgotten constellations,
dead quiet, almost everlasting, off of the mind’s horizon.
Time is straightening out to dive in, kick legs like frightened fins
so deep the water pressure pops somewhere,
inside the ears of time, deaf, short of breath,
buried beneath the weight of chock blue salt bearing water.
Time dies, and is about to return to life, again,
just as the studious, slow illusion of progression
has done before, and before, and before.
Returned. Resurrected. Risen.
To break face above the surface.
And once time starts to pick up pace,
it doesn’t slow down for any of us.
I suppose it is that time of year.
The uplifting of every color and life
above bare branches and gray towers of fear.
Light against dark.
Bright burned shadows.
Stark and oppressive.
These days joy and growth are wrested from slow dying.
These are the days in which we relearn how to live.