Friday, December 2, 2011
Some things I forgot
Here are a few things I forgot about December:
How the sense of darkness, so early in the evening, is heavy and thick, as if you could drown in it. How my hair tangles and my eyes burn and my hands chap from the dry air. How the only time I don't feel cold is right after stepping into a scalding hot bath. How the brown and taupe landscape of the autumn gives way to a grayness that seems able to actually seep inside my flesh and render my thoughts equally gray. How hard it is to get out of bed on these cold, gray mornings.
Today I drove around the countryside to the north, the stretch of road from El Paso to Gridley, hoping to catch sight of a snowy owl that was seen by some other birders a couple of days ago. I did not see the owl, and I took it personally. I saw a red-tailed hawk gliding above the muddy wallow of a farmyard, and the dark little profiles of kestrals perching on the telephone wires, against the gray wash of the sky. I saw some horned larks dashing for the camouflage of winter fields as I made an ill-conceived detour along a dirt road. But no owls.
At least it is Friday. Lately being at work has meant the inability to think any thought through to its natural conclusion. The phone rings constantly. While I am taking one call, the message light starts flashing to remind me of all those I am missing. Coworkers hover by my desk waiting for a moment to ambush me with a question. Behind me, the fax machine keeps whirring with more work flowing in. In order to multi-task, I would first have to be able to finish an actual task.
Despite a grim weather forecast for the weekend (both days overcast with a chance of rain), if at all possible I will spend as long as I can slowly wandering through the woods, letting the stillness soak down to my bones. Somehow the season only starts to bother me when I am stuck inside (or when I am not seeing owls, but that's another point).
And I remind myself that winter is not always this bleak; sometimes it is touched with its own moment of transcendence, such as I described in my Bird Journal from February 13, 2010: "Beautiful winter day, archetypal, what people mean when they praise 'the seasons' (not the weeks of misery that accompany it)--the sky so vividly blue, the snow a sparkling white expanse, trees and grasses glittering with frost.... Heard a cardinal singing what cheer and then purty purty purty, the notes so clear, the tonal equivalent of the sparkling blue/white day. It seemed the most beautiful sound I had ever heard."
But there is an eternity between that moment and this one....