Thursday, December 24, 2009

noticing the change of the seasons

Winter Solstice ’09

as the Sun’s year winds down
a storm flies north over us
full of moisture from the Gulf,
cold air from the Pole
pulls a great snow out of it,

before, all that needs doing at school and home
has also broken upon me in a snow of tasks,
and later a flurry of actions,

it’s often easy in modern America
to find a way to let nature’s cycles be peripheral,
we light away the night,
cool away summer,
heat away winter,
and not even quite notice how short the days are getting,
I do contend, though, that our moods know what’s going on,
for grey days somber us like a filter that hides away
any brightness in the mood,

the last day of Fall
I drive my fully-loaded 19 year-old van
across a whitened landscape, though roads are clear,
as I leave the Piedmont and climb up to the mountain plateau
the bright Sun stays behind
and brooding clouds greet me and hold all across the mountains,
my usual interstate way across these mountains still is blocked
by a landslide months ago when rock & earth reacted to another storm,
as I race north I feel the weight of the foot and a half of snow
beside the road, near half a foot still on the trees,
I thank the engineers who designed and built this interstate
and the workers who have cleared it
as I crest the Appalachian ridge at 3800 feet in elevation
and scurry down and across the great valley of the Tennessee,
the snow disappearing till it reappears around our cabin
huddled at the base of Mt. LeConte,
a few inches on the ground and a light dusting still on the trees,
subtle, accenting the lines of leaf & branch
rather than overwhelming distinctions the way snow measured deep does,

stars and a crescent moon come out to mark the night,
early morning, even before the grey of daylight starts to softly return
I venture down to the creek for my morning soul time,
the white of the snow the first to shape the world around me
and slowy other shapes unveil themselves,
the full creek falling fast,

it’s now almost 9:00 a.m. and the Sun still hasn’t crested
the mountains to the south and east,
though the tops of the trees on the ridge across the way see it,

late morning I set off on an adventure to discover
what will reveal itself in the snowy valley today,

I aim my steps up the valley toward the Sun,

who has been hiding behind the clouds
and chooses this day, of all days, to reappear,
on this, its lowest day of the year,
the mountains before me rise up to make the Sun seem even lower,
I snap picture after picture of tree and creek
decked out in white with the bright eye of the Sun
the jewel at the top of photo after photo,

as I make my way two miles up the valley
the snow deepens from several inches to 5 then to 7,

and I go cross-country where my tracks are the first of my species in days,
though story after story hints of itself in other tracks:
deer, wild turkey, rabbit, probably a coyote,

lower bushes and trees who keep their leaves,
mostly rhododendron and hemlock, one laurel I notice,
bow deep under the weight of the snow
and in their supplicance hold me to a slower way around them,

a tall hemlock, draped with snow, so looks as a Christmas tree,
that I take its picture with the bright sun as the star at its top,

this is the valley I most explore and know,
this Spring,
this Summer,
this Fall
I have wandered these woods
and found flower and view and bear,
now these same woods seem as if at intermission,
the snow speaks of the truth of Winter’s phase of holding, of stasis,
the stream speaks of the truth of the phase of flowing, of change,
the Sun speaks of the truth that he calls the dance
and we do well to follow that lead,

as the day diminishes toward dusk
I find my way to where I can watch the last light today
highlight the whitened mountain at the head of my valley,

tomorrow the days will start to slowly lengthen,
three times the Moon will fill, and it will be Spring,
for now, though, it is time to feel the Winter and celebrate light.

by Henry Walker
December 21, ‘09

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