I have been asking myself a pretty normal question the last few evenings just before dark. Normal if you are like me and have a pretty wonderful case of cabin fever. What time is it? I can't seem to make it out. In this agreeably southern latitude of the non-fashionable part of the Rocky Mountains the days have grown suddenly longer and blooming all over, as my two geranium plants did after I fed them doses of nitrogen.
The plants, like me, have sat in the window of my adobe cottage most of the winter, but waiting for me to wait on them each chilly morning to get the shutters open so they can enjoy the ball of fire that sharply lifts over the mountains to the east, sending a spray of wild crystal flashing Morse code in the air, a message that everything is all right with the world again after a howling, hammering night; they wait patiently as I get the wood stove into full service and the room temperature more to their Mediterranean liking.
But now everything has taken off -- except the knowledge in me from experience that it will continue to be winter on the land for weeks and months to come. But now it is light until 6:30 p.m. at this altitude, and I feel as crazy as I used to at boarding school when we had to play stickball after supper to cool down enough to go into study hall.
Not only is it light, it is beautifully light. This evening, the unfrozen parts of the river turned deep blue and orange in a mountain day's bow to the eyes of those unfortunate, and perhaps a little foolhardy, to live in a cruelly stormy area many miles from ordinary human services. I stopped to look up in the middle of a rather hectic game of ice hockey with a stone and my equally exuberant Chesapeake, Jonathan, at the springlike, wide-open sky.
But the trees are wiser, and they stood still as ever; soon, in minutes, old Orion would be there, in all its cold glitter, as I closed my shutters and let the fire breathe for heat. But I sensed something? What time is it? Is the earth getting ready, at last?
I heard the mouse that lives in the cracked stone near the wood-stove wall rustle and squeak tonight, and a fly -- a fly! -- flew down from somewhere and blindly buzzed the shade of my reading lamp. I am too restless to settle down to the dusty royalty and balming cadences of another longed-to-read Shakespeare play. That was winter. There is some other drama afoot now. I should be glad to know just where I am in the universal scheme of things, where we are tonight, what the time is.
I do not know whether to wake up, wide awake, or go back to my old sleepy ways of cutting firewood, closing and opening shutters, bundling up against the winds to walk a mile to get my mail and chat with the postlady about temperatures in her town and my tiny hamlet, those little winter adjustments and arrangements that are so comforting and keep you going like pulling up the blanket around your ears in bed.
Shall I wake up now?
I think that when I do, I will find the world just as I thought it would be (I shall plant some snapdragons then), but the something I am now listening to and seeing tells me I will be much further along than I ever thought, and most likely in a place I never expected.