Night Walk: Part V

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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.

Ephemeral Light

Ephemeral is the late afternoon sun. In autumn and spring colors are fleeting. Light passes over all life, a gentle hand grazing the tops of wheatgrass. Such a romance. Infatuated until dusk when a sliver of light caresses the earth and leaves me standing in the field.

Fire Tops

I waited in the early morning darkness
Breath billowing out in long streams
Finger tips wrapped tight in fisted hands
Dug deep in pockets

The shift in light was so subtle
Suddenly I could see the higher branches
Two crows peered at me as though I intruded
Naked feathers, naked sight

Then it licked the tops in fire and light
My heart beat faster than the shutter
The moment was brief to catch with camera
Yet as quickly as I began, my hand was stayed

Sunrise is a communion I often forget
A flicker of awakening to the earth and the mind
In activity I am artist but a bit asleep
In stillness I awaken as part of the art.

Coyote

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Early, before the sun is up. Breakfast half eaten against the back drop of autos heading into the city. I hear them yelping between the motors in the nearby field. The night was cold for summer, giving rise for them to howl for autumn.

I am pressed and clean for the day ahead, but their barks call to my wildness beneath the suit. All these routines and order, economies, mortgages and regulations. I stand at the window and listen. My heart beats faster with the next call and I realize it is not order I am hungry for, but the feel of dirt and the grass beneath my feet. To run and howl with abandon with my kin.

Alas, a deep final breath at the sill, as I turn from the window, checking my coyote spirit as I head for the door.