Walks are good for thinking. They’re settling. You get time to spend pondering whatever’s on your mind.
There’s something I can’t quite bring to focus. And it’s not what I’d expect.
… I’m ready for cold …
I’m ready for a cold December morning when a few flakes of snow float in the neutral nothing of a dismal day, or whatever they do when it’s December and not yet the hard bitter cold of January’s winter.
To this day, I love the soft, hoof to dirt rhythm, of a gallop. Clop clop clop clop, horse and rider, dust flying, in an old western. Clop clop clop clop. It’s sound and picture and smell and dust and dirt and powerful horse, all in a background sound that fills the brain.
When I was little, I played tap dance. With patent leather shoes banging and making as much noise as I could on a linoleum floor. It was silly and noisy, clicking and knocking the heck out of those shoes and that cheap floor. I love. I love that sound too.
But tonight it’s a cold dark winter night, it’s late, and I’m half asleep. Tick tick tick. The slick, scraping sound of icy sleet hitting windows, brushing glass. Tick tick tick. I’m inside, and feeling protected. Safe, I suppose. Yet the sound calls, barely calls, beckoning me from a desperate, a desperately soft floating dreamy winter numbness. Tick tick tick, calling me out from some sad sense of empty waiting. Tick tick tick. Out there in the dark. Tapping at the window. Tapping at the subconscious. It taps me on the shoulder. “Wake up. Listen, girl, listen. Yeah, girl, you. You hear that? Wake up, girl.” I get up and look, I guess hoping to see something in the darkness besides sleet hitting the glass. Out there where you know there’s nothing but dark and cold. What did I hope to see? I think something to make me look, to rouse, to look up and smile. Yeah, something to shake the numbness, to make me look up, and about, and smile.
Absent-minded, I look outside, and my brain works to pair long lines, from trees, with vertical panes, from the window. I like it when they’re perfectly parallel. When I take pictures in the woods, I angle the shot so trees naturally slanted to the sun come out straight up and down in the picture. Flowers too. And within the compulsion of these mental confines falls the nuisance and distraction of utility lines. Struggling to aim up over the lines so they don’t pull your eye from the clouds, or the sun, or the trees on the horizon. Sometimes, though, lines are inescapable. Sometimes you can’t take out the lines and have the same picture.
January doesn’t exactly call to you. It’s easy to zone out in the numbness of these dull, dreary days. And sometimes the look of January isn’t enough even to make me look up. But the sounds out there, they still work.
There’s no one else around mid-afternoon, and it’s quiet. I try to convince myself it’s peaceful, but the mood is more like melancholy. Trees and what’s left of plants look like they’re scarcely holding on. It’s a still cold quiet void. Quiet and gray. My spirit too.
Yet, if you hang around the quiet long enough, there’s more than silence.
A subtle rippling, just audible. Water moving over stones and around bends. Slow enough to make singular tones. Soothing. Like listening from another room, while someone strums a guitar. Slowly picking the strings, one string at at time.
That kind of soothing.
Then the cheeps. Tiny cheeps. I’m partial to towhees, and they never let me down. Winter, summer, doesn’t matter. They’re around, and they’re gonna cheep. But other birds too. The cardinals, for sure. Their winter tones are sweet. Comfortable, less commanding, less stressed, almost purposeless. Not the loud complicated spring show-off mating songs or the summer alarms and calls. It’s soft and gentle. As if they’re going about life, hunting the brush for a meal or snack, and mindlessly humming.
There’s been too much gray. Too much cloudy. I’d rather have snow. But we get comfort where we can. And January brings a quiet comfort. If nothing else, it brings quiet. Quiet intersecting lonely intersecting reassurance. A kind of hushed reassurance.
The light shining bright in my eyes. On a morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies. It’s like the first cup of coffee you grab before the rest of the pot finishes brewing. It’s like a jump start. And the jolt makes you realize you’ve been sputtering. Gray skies have their place in winter, for sure. But day after day after day, the way it seemed, they leave the spirit almost spiritless. Like it’s tugging a load around. Like you’re always pushing yourself when you feel like leaving everything just where it is.
Well, in the bright light of a morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies, a fox came trotting across the yard. I’ve seen many foxes before, and they always seem to me like they have somewhere to go. But this guy wasn’t in a hurry, and I had time to take a close look. It was fluffier than others I’ve seen. Maybe they get a winter coat. And it definitely stopped in the middle of the yard to poke at the ground. As if it eyed some kind of breakfast hiding just under the surface of the hard frozen grass.
I think the fox is a beautiful animal, but up close and personal, they scare me just a little. From my window, though, it was a wonderful sight on the last Sunday of the year, on a cold morning that came with the bluest blue cloudless skies, and December’s unfiltered light shining bright. Shining in my eyes.
December 27, 2020
My picture from last year. I didn’t think to get a picture yesterday of the fox or the sky.