It feels like February again as a cold front blew in today. Fierce and wild, reclaiming the landscape in the name of winter. The sun is shining brightly, but the wind is sharp and bone chilling. As I drove to Albany and then home again, I saw hawks everywhere. Red Tailed are the only ones I can identify with certainty while driving, but there were other species as well. They were flying, veering wildly in the wind gusts. They were sitting in tree branches surveying the ground. They were perched on top of phone poles, feathers puffed up against the frigid air. They were standing on fence posts, and hopping around on the ground wings akimbo with struggling prey in their grasp. I was seeing a hawk every few minutes: in the forests, fields, suburbs, and city. Today was the day of the Hawks! Where did they all come from and why are they here now? Don’t know, but it was awesome and inspiring to see all the many hawks that were out and about today!
This morning we left a little early because everything was coated with ice. In the half light of early morning, all the branches shimmer a cold silver and blue. The road aren’t bad, so we make good time. Once we are off the mountain, the ice has melted into memory, or maybe it wasn’t even there to begin with, a wintry hallucination in response to the numbing cold of the frigid air. Let the turbulence in my mind freeze like water and let me feel peaceful again. Coming home, headed up the mountain, as we gain elevation, the ice reemerges in spectacular form. The bright sun is gleaming down between clouds, turning every little ice covered branch and twig into a prism of dazzling light. A moment later, the valley is cast into shadow, and the trees are covered with what looks like sugar on frosted cereal. The landscape is turned into the biggest desert the world has ever seen. I want to stop the car, get out and touch this sugar coated world, taste its sweetness, breath in the tang of frozen vegetation, feel the cold air against my skin, be part of beautiful energy of this winter wonderland.
As my husband is now driving me to Albany and back home every morning (until this cast comes off in two weeks), I have a lot of time to stare out the window at all the scenery. We stay off the interstate and keep to the smaller local and state roads. We travel through fields, forests, over hills, across creeks and wetlands, past farms, large country houses, old family homesteads, mobile homes, and abandoned ramshackle buildings. One area that caught my attention today, traveling in both directions, was a large, open, flat field. I guess it grew corn last summer as there are a few identifiable scattered brown and tattered stalks left standing in the furrowed rows. There is a tree line way back from the road, bare deciduous trees with dense leafless branches. On these branches were hundreds of crows. As we drove by, they took off from the trees in waves, individual bodies glistening darkest purest black in the bright sunlight, shining like liquid onyx against the blue sky and brown earth. They dove and soared, banked, turned, gliding to land in the field as others took off and continued the flying dance. The group looked like a living rippling curtain undulating over the landscape. It was fascinating to watch. Why have they congregated in this field? What wild abandon has them flying for the pure joy of it? What code are they following to choreograph this organized chaos of their flight dance? Their random swirling between the tree branches and the ground brings to mind computer generated pictures of fractals I have seen, and I wonder if this dance can be related to the Fibonacci Number Sequence. The flock of crows are still doing their airborne ballet as we slide down the next hill and I loose sight of the field.
Today is the first day of 30 radiation treatments. The course will take 6 weeks, and I should be done by March 15th. That seems like a long time from now. We now have to go to Albany every morning, an hour and a half drive from home, for a less than 15 minute appointment. So it is… With my husband driving this morning, while cruising along the Bataviakill valley, the sky is dark, cold, and cloudy. The mountains are a darker blue grey against the struggling morning light. Suddenly, the sun breaks through a hole in the cloud cover, a blinding orange fire ball streaming yellow sun beams beneath the clouds and over the side of the mountain, illuminating he snow covered fields in glorious triumph. I see stray snowflakes floating through the air, gleaming in the morning sunlight. I feel as if the super charged sunlight has pierced the armor around my soul and is letting the glorious morning sun song fill me with hope and love. As the car travels around a long wide turn, the angle of sight lines shift, and the sun sinks behind the clouds again. So goes a sunrise over stormy mountains. I am warmed and content, because the sun also rises, and I know Spring will be here soon.
Well, as you can imagine, there is a lot of anxiety associated with breaking a bone and with starting radiation therapy. This amount of internal anxiety gets expressed externally as odd, and depressive behaviors which leads to marital strife. After a angry and loud argument I took off in my car. My car is a stick shift, very hard to drive with one hand, but I didn’t care. I just needed to get away, feel the breeze in my hair, smell the fresh air, and calm down. I drove slowly, and stuck to the back roads. Started taking random turns down roads I had never traveled before. The air was warm for January, what’s left of the snow was melting, ice accumulating in the shadowy areas. I ended up on a one lane dirt road through state land on the back side of a mountain. Amazing hobbit adventure! It was like a small piece of West Virginia Appalachia had time warped to upstate New York. Driving through someone’s back field, last years tall summer grasses matted down into soggy brown boggy mud, an old split rail fence, falling apart and only still standing because that is what it has done for 100 years. A small movement caught my eye, I let the car roll to a stop and watched. Small birds darted up and over the fence, a flash of brilliant blue with a hint of a rust smear around the throat. Bluebirds????!!!! This early????!!!! I sat a watched until they had chased each other out of sight. Bluebirds, one of the first signs of spring. Exciting to see, but winter is only just getting started. It may feel and look like spring right now, but there will be much more snow and cold before winter lets us go.
Driving over the crest of a tall hill, the road drops steeply down and out of sight around a curve, a vista opens out across the valley, winter sunlight streams from a crystal blue sky, bare trees look black against the snow covered ground, their long thin grey shadows slanting across the forest floor. The horizon is dominated by a mountain ridge across the way, half way up there is a snow line, it reminds me of seeing snow line up high on summer trips through the Rockies in Colorado and of how snow line would oscillate up and down the distant peaks the winter I spent in Portland, Oregon all those years ago. Reminiscing startles to a halt when science kicks in, how can I see a snow line when there is snow at my present elevation? I take a more scrutinizing look at the mountain ridge and realize that I am looking at probably a frost line or frozen precipitation line of some sort. Although there is snow cover all the way down in the valley floor, the trees up top are covered in a frozen layer that is gleaming white in the slanting winter sunshine. The trees below that elevation do not have a coating of ice or frost, so they are dark and black against the ground. Above there, all the branches are coated in a frosty icing, blending into the snow covered ground giving the illusion of a snow line. A visual representation of the temperature gradient as elevation changes! Mother Nature is freaking awesome!
Driving through town after dark, snow covering the tree branches and shrubberies. Christmas lights cheerfully aglow on people’s houses and in their yards. When the snow covers a bush with lights on it, the colors shine through the snow as a muted glow, a circle of soft radiant light, emanating from the depths of the snow. Gone are the individual bright sparks of colored bulbs, replaced with hazy spheres of glowing color, like mystical orbs, or fairy lights in the forest. The first time I saw Christmas lights under the snow, I didn’t realize it was a pretty accident, but thought it was a new fangled light display. Silly me! Mother Nature wins again!