Night Rain

From the roof of my hospital: Photo by Noelle

From the roof of my hospital: Photo by Noelle

The hour is late and sleep should have long since found me, but instead I lay and listen to the steady rain upon the roof. It had been snow earlier, but now the temps hold above freezing and it comes down in taps obliterating any evidence that winter once lived here. I feel an odd sorrow for her passing, but know it will be brief. By weekend’s end this same rain will fuel an eruption of life that this dark, wet night hardly can ponder.

In the the light of my neighbor’s window cast upon the ceiling of my room, I see the rain drops running down the windows as shadows moving above me. I am reminded of old grief that once felt as heavy as the vanishing wet snow, but now, like rain to the irises in their beds it is the fuel to a heart breaking through dirt.

The bed is warm and dry, the cats snuggled close and asleep. It seems a shame to drift off to sleep in this cozy cocoon, but even butterflies must rest to break free.

Snow Falls Gently

Free Google images

Free Google images

It came in so quick. Probably didn’t help that I’d left late, which is rare for me. Everyone had been driving at standard, rush hour speeds, and then brake lights lit up the pre-dawn morning, as the roads went from merely wet to snow covered and slick.

I look out my windshield and the snow is quite beautiful.

The white, probably 80’s vintage 280Z is clearly in a hurry and rides the bumper of the only slightly newer Ford Bronco. I turn away, not to feel the anxiety of a rear end that hasn’t happened yet. My hands are gripped too tight on the wheel. I focus on relaxing them. I have that odd displaced feeling of not being wholly in myself. Sort of half there and half outside the vehicle trying to project my senses forward.

The snow falls in big flakes I want to touch. So peaceful – snow and all this darkness. Mother Nature’s crazy womb.

There is no reason for concern. This is a good car with all wheel drive, new tires and anti-lock brakes. I’ve got this and yet I find my hand rubbing my neck. A Pathfinder rushes past, only to come to an even faster halt up ahead with a slide. Feeling his movements sets my nerves on edge.

The evergreens off the interstate are already covered in winter white in a matter of minutes. In my mind I can feel the cool wind standing in front of them. They wave in the winds coming on this storm front. I wonder if they are beckening me out of the car.

A Toyote slides sideways two cars up and all of us brake. My breath catches and I hear my inner mantra on over drive, “I’m okay. I’m okay.” I see another slide a bit in my rearview mirror.

As we enter a smaller valley the wind is cut off and the snow falls so gently here. It’s magic as I look off from the road.

In pioneer days we’d all stay in and wait till it’s over. How advanced we’ve become, eh? The Toyote recovers sort of and begins moving again. He is our lesson and we all move at a crawl. I find myself estimating the pace to the time I’ll arrive at work. I’ll be late. Stomach tightens a bit. I wish the car behind me wasn’t so close.

The snow falls gently.

Relaxing my hands again from the wheel I take in a few deep yogic breaths. Look how smoothly this car moves. This should be my focus, not the car’s hazard lights off to the side of the road. The woman is talking frantically to someone on her cell. My heart beats slightly faster as I remember what that feels like.

Rooftops glisten in all that white. Drab winter grays and browns are gone. A winter wonderland in less than ten minutes. I crack the window a bit to feel the cold air. It’s fresh and clears my mind a bit. Bits of snow ping my face and somewhere in me I know I am not separate from this beauty.

I try music, but it is too distracting at the moment. Three cars have come to a head in an effort to change lanes. No one has hit the other, but they are trying to determine who will go first in this darkness and snow. One of them struggles to find any lane. We all hold back to let the scene sort itself out.

The snow falls gently. I watch it melt on my windshield. What it would be like to stand in the middle of an open field and let it melt over me?

It’s all in timing and perspective, isn’t it? Seven at night and I could be in that field. Seven in the morning and I’m gripping the wheel. Not going to work and it’s beautiful. Getting to work it’s an obstacle to navigate. A different day or a different hour and everything shifts. How many things are like that in my life, I wonder? Just a different day or a different hour. A slight turn of my mind from the obstacles in front of me to the mystery and beauty all around me. I wonder…

The snow falls gently.

Death and the Owl

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He caught me completely unaware. I have stalked this owl for more than a year. He hoots, tempting me into the wood, but is gone before I get there; hidden in summer leaves or a winter’s bark. I have waited upwards of half an hour only to realize he has flown off and I’ve been left with a crick in my neck. I was completely distracted by thoughts of death and cold. On this evening two mutually exclusive topics. I was home safe and warm in cozy flannels when I saw it begin to snow. Death whispered in my ear, rather dramatically I might add, that one day I would lie upon my death bed and think of this night. How life and nature offered me a chance at a winter’s walk in a dreamy snow and I declined for warmth and comfort. I do my best to ignore death, as she can seem a ridiculous chatterbox in my ear, but on balance, she is more friend than foe. She oft reminds me to live while time is allowed me. Thus, I found myself trading slippers for boots and wondering how death usurped my woolen blankets, when the owl took me by surprise.

He was perched on a the lowest branch of a deliciously, knobby tree. He bobbed and turned his head taking stock of me. My face was stiff and my teeth ached in this biting cold, but I could not leave him so soon. This is his domain. The night and the open field. Sometimes you have to honor the presence of a master with your time. I dreamt once of being given an owl feather. The dream has drifted off into the mist, but that feather often comes to me while meditating. It floats before my closed eyes vivid in it’s pattern. I’d fly with this fellow if it was within me, but I am wrapped as tight as a mummy. I watch as he preens his feathers oblivious to the cold.

I have never regretted anything I felt inspired to do. Magic lies on paths of inspiration and they are the only roads that death does not haunt. Now I sit relishing toasted ciabatta, slathered in peanut butter and cinnamon honey. My nose warms its way back from the icy precipice and my cat lounges across my shoulders, a living scarf. I am alone again as it would appear death has flown off with the owl. Alas, such fickle friends.

Night Walk: Part V

Free Bing Photos

Free Bing Photos

A twenty minute walk would normally take you to the lake, but on this night it was closer to thirty five. The the road I cross from the marsh to lake is poorly cleared and there is a field of six to eight inches of snow to cross to reach the lake. I followed the cross country ski lines I saw so clearly in the light of the moon, from someone who had passed this way earlier in the day. I knew in all this crunch of snow and steaming breath no wildlife would be caught unaware. An owl can here a mouse crawling under snow a half mile off. To any Great Horned nearby I am sure I sounded a fire brigade to its ears. By the time I reached the lake I was sweating and hot and pealing off mittens, coat and hat as fast as I could. Temperatures enough to freeze the lake solid and I was as close to naked as I could stand amidst huge billows of steaming air.

As my breath slowed I became keenly aware of the sounds around me. Someone scraping a shovel on a sidewalk not quite a kilometer off. The highway to the west that runs below the hills that nestle the lake. A dog barking and someone calling out to a passerby. Sound carried across the snow as if we were all swimming in water. The ice on the lake cracked near where I was standing, but was muffled by all the snow. I was alone out here. With the light of the moon I could see for miles. Nothing along the lakeside moved. I stood very still and looked all around me. I am not even sure how to describe how the moon turned the lake into an iridescent opal of blues and purples. How tiny bits of light winked up off the snow in the moonlight, made all the clearer because of the darkness. How tree limb shadows snaked out across the snow in the deepest shades of purple and violet. The snow-capped hogbacks rose beyond the lake peppered in evergreen and patches of tall grasses positively glowing. The stars sat deep in their velvety darkness humbled by the moonlight and I too bowed to her power.

I redressed quickly as the sweat began to cool me off more than I wanted and picked the lower trail. I knew I needed to keep moving. I passed near a neighborhood that borders the lake. All the shades had been pulled that faced the mountains of these houses and I wondered at all they were missing. If I lived at the corner house I would never close my shades. On a night like this I would sit in my darkened home with the curtains wide, sipping hot cocoa enjoying an immense view.

On the far side, farthest from the neighborhoods and the roads and nearest the hogbacks, I stopped and listened for a long while. If you listen carefully you realize there is a deep silence even in the noise of neighboring life. It is steady and persistent. You may stand to listen for a moment, but it enchants you the longer you stand there. In all that silence, in all that open space covered in moonlit snow you forget yourself. You forget the cold and the distance for home. You forget you are a mere human in all this grandeur, and yet, that is when you realize you are the grandeur, too. The moment you stopped to appreciate all that beauty and silence you became a part of it. Instead of moving through, you moved in. In that moonlit field by the lake you have become, like the wild buckwheat and tall prairie grass, another motionless figure adding to the rich texture of a majestic landscape.

Night Walk: Part III

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The skies have just a few wispy clouds accenting a moon a third full. In the distance a blue glow eminates off the Hogbacks now fully swathed in a winter blanket of snow. Stars wink in the depths of the heavens and it is surely a perfect winter’s night.

The moon is enough to cast my shadow long upon the snow. Unfortunately, not bright enough to highlight the black ice leaving me committed to walk on the crunchier, and thus, louder snow. Years of yogic balancing now my only means to avoid landing loudly on my backside as I head down the north path. I fear I’ll see no wildlife tonight, but I am not the only noisy beast out this evening. Children whose parents are dining and drinking in the warmth of the house down the lane have taken to playing on the porch in the Christmas lights. It is clear they delight in hearing their giggles carry across the pond and echo off the houses on the other side.

I shift direction and take the deeper path Northwest and plunge into the eight or so inches of snow. My nose may be frozen but my feet are warm and dry in my trusty winter boots. I pass the house of the spirit fashionistas aglow in white Christmas lights and the ambient warmth of stylish living room lamps. I have been passing this well dressed house with its beautiful furnishings and art work for more than a year. I have never seen a living human inside it or decorating the outside. I have given this an embarrassing amount of effort, craning my neck and walking nearly into their yard. I have come to the conclusion that the ghosts of dead editors for Architectural Digest live there.

Once at the open fields and the marshes the world changes again. Deep snow and black tree trunks pepper the hillside and the moon turns it all into a storybook scene. Shadows of tall, snow-capped cattails break up the marsh in patches of midnight blue and I hear the ice crack on the farthest side. My coyotes are nowhere to be found and in this light I could see a mouse cross the marsh ice. I stay here a long time until my fingers ache with the cold.

Spring Snow

Snow at Raccoon Creek: photography by Noelle

Snow at Raccoon Creek: photography by Noelle

Snow on spring blossoms and turns the sky in shades of gray. The yellows and greens are gone today while slate and shake burrow beneath thick robes of white. Silence fills the afternoon where birds had been singing only yesterday. No mowers out for lawns and the garden gloves are in their buckets. Huddled in the house the quiet pulls up last year’s losses and leaves them in the compost for the flower beds yet to be turned. It should be a sadness that tugs in the silence, as my heart was hungry for the trail. Instead, in blankets of tartan red I absorb a last winter’s charm. In the dark afternoon blooms my peace.