Under cover

It is here at last, that white cover over land and buildings. Even the pond is iced in. The bittersweet dangles now, brighter than the haws of wild roses. They still are red, as is the sumac along the winding country roads, the rest of the growing neighbors have long since bowed their heads to the frost.

The hunters have finally left and our little friends who outwitted them are back in their homes for the long winter. It is now safe to go up in the woods and cut out dead limbs and unwanted brush. And of course the birds that migrate are all gone and I miss their song in the woods. We know so little about migration, except that is has gone on longer than man has been here. It is said that it is not merely a matter of food or entirely of weather. It is just one of those life patterns and cycles. There is certainly an indestructible order about it.

Evenings now tend to be foggy in the hills. I appreciate the fog. It makes everything in the foreground stand in close and familiar relief while blanking out the background. Fog is restful if you are spiritually fatigued and fresh thoughts and sensations enter the mind. It makes all things direct and acute where they have been complex.

Now we face the long impossible cold. Unlike summer, winter makes few compromises. We must accept it on its own terms. But it is a mistake to believe that the cold of winter curtails all activity. The mind can stretch now on new frontiers. Cutting wood, building fires, working on furniture, making rugs, all handwork that gives the mind time to relax. There is an inward unwinding from all of summer's responsibilities. Then there is our writing, where we are calmed and nearest to leisure in the thicket of words.

There will be cold hands, cold feet, as we shovel paths and make our way down to the mailbox. Trees will hang heavy with this snow, because it is wet. All the little beasties I trust are under cover, and birds have snuggled down in some warm and sheltered place. We shall all survive, because we must. The web of relationships that ties animal to plant, prey to predator, parasite to host and all to air, water and soil. Complex, yes, but nature persists because it is complex. It is the theology of the earth. Do we go from the obvious to the allusive and then to the oblique when we attempt to deepen our thought processes?

Snow has many shades of meaning - first there is the sudden transfer of attention from the cold to the lovely crystal particles that are falling. We are conscious of all that is about to be covered with this whiteness. Its gentleness becomes a cloak, and snow on snow will build throughout the winter.

Cold is a barrier. When we think of cold hands, cold heart, we think of austerity. Cold restricts. For instance the cold drove me indoors though I wished to walk in the snow. I look out the window now as a mourner beside a white grave. So I remain apart from my beloved fields as from someone I cannot be with. But the cold disciplines, and there is a sense of focus and concentration that is rare and valuable for a writer.

I note the wind is erasing the snow from the branches now. The first snow will go, and we will put aside its memory and its cold.

So it will take care of itself this season, and the days will begin with a yawn like a Siamese cat's. We will look up at the great trees outside our window and see its spirit up where the smaller branches grow free and the tips of its twigs are young and we will see tomorrow's life rising toward another spring and another summer.

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