Christmas Lights Across The Hollow

 

 

12-11-2017 Magic Moment:

 

Full dark comes early this time of year. The sunlight is always slanting, even at high noon. I do miss those long summer days spreading out like warm golden honey from horizon to horizon. Now that the leaves are gone from all the deciduous trees, we can see the three houses across the hollow. I stepped out onto the porch after dinner, turning off the light so I could see into the darkness and absorb the starlight. I noticed through the bare trees colored lights twinkling in the darkness. The houses across the hollow have Christmas light up, cheerful and bright. I stand and gaze at them from afar until the chill creeps in. Joyful lights to brighten our hearts in the cold darkness of winter.

 

 

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Yoga Helper

11-21-2017 Magic Moment:

I tried to get up early, but it didn’t happen. However, when I finally managed to get up, I felt good and had some energy, so I decided to do my yoga practice and maybe work out. The workout didn’t happen, but the yoga felt divine. Stretching, twisting, breathing, working out the kinks, unknotting the muscles, and loosening up the joints. I had a little helper too, a lithe, slinky, velvety soft Little Black Cat, who sauntered over as I started doing the cat/ cow pose. She slithered through and slinked around my arms and legs, purring and rubbing, and generally being a cute little thing. She helped me with my positions for the rest of my practice, nudging her soft little face, with her little black wet nose, and her little black whiskers up under my hands for more petting, and flopping over on her back for belly rubs. When I was done, I scooped her up in my arms, holding her close to my shoulder and ear. Her whole body vibrating with her purring joyfulness. Oh, the happiness of the love of a cat!

Mergansers

3-27-2017

Driving slowly along the muddy road I live on, looking at the high rushing brown water in the raging creek, I notice notice two mergansers in the deeper swiftly flowing channel next to the island. I stop the car and watch their merriment. The male is flashing black and white and the female is an elegant smooth grey with a spicy cinnamon head. They are paddling furiously with their little webbed feet, occasionally flapping wings just enough to walk on the water but not take flight splashing water in every direction. Slowly with much effort they are pushing upstream through the waves and riffles, using small eddies behind rocks to help their upstream travel. Then they dive into the churning water, disappearing for long moments, only to pop up in the fast current, sliding downstream through the rapids. I sit watching this spectacle for many long minutes. I know how they feel, the sheer joy of navigating whitewater!

Epic Snowshoe

This magic moment is long because the moment was several hours long adventure in my own back yard.

3-16-2017

Bright beautiful golden sunshine streaming from a clear cerulean sky. The woods are calling! I bundle up, sit on the bottom step, strap on snowshoes, and start walking up the hill behind the house. Breaking trail, each step is an incredible feat of prowess, as I am sinking knee deep in the fresh powder. I take several steps and stop for a mini break, then several more steps and another mini break. Uphill is physically challenging, every step has to come straight up to clear most of the snow before moving forward. If not the snow bogs down the snowshoes and sinks my feet deeper and tries to pull me over. These are high stepping marching baby steps. Odd movement combination; takes me many near misses of falling down to get the hang of it.

Eventually, what seems like a hour later I leave our property, climbing higher up the hill. There are four of five ledges where the bed rock is exposed, old and tree covered, but cliff like in their impedance to uphill travel. At each ledge, I follow along the bottom until I find an area eroded enough to gain that ground as well. Soon my legs are physically exhausted, I can feel the muscles tremble with exertion. I take many breathing breaks. The cold air feels good against my sweaty skin. I need to find the delicate balance between covering exposed skin to protect it from the freezing air, and shedding layers so as to not overheat my core with this insane workout. Drinking from my water bottle, I notice the ice crystals forming in the liquid, they slide by my lips and melt in my mouth.

I am standing completely alone, near the top of the ridge. I have to stamp down the snow so I can turn to see where I came from, my snowshoe prints meandering through the trees looking for the easiest way through, and disappearing into the forest. I turn again to see ahead, flat smooth snow, creamy white and striped with blue tree shadows. I scrutinize the cliff ledge I have been following, I see a possible way up, but decide my legs still need to get me back home, so I don’t climb any higher.

Further along there is a hemlock stand, I head for that. Climbing over a down tree, I notice a line of small tracks in the snow, traveling straight through, the prints themselves are unclear, just indentions in the snow where the animals feet sank. I believe it may be a coyote, they like to go in a straight line and often travel alone. I startled a coyote out of a thicket once on a snowshoe walk down in the creek. She took off faster than I could blink, tawny brown and grey, big dog and powerful. In that moment I was astounded by her wild beauty, later I was thankful she decided to run away instead of holding her ground. I would have lost that fight.

I tromp into the group of hemlock trees, shaded area is definitely colder. Tamp down the snow to look around, then gaze upward toward the sky. The dark green black branches of the hemlocks almost shine with glory against the impossible blue sky, most of which isn’t visible through the tall thick evergreen branches.

I take a step forward, loose my balance, try to compensate by shifting weight, feel my ankle and knee start to painfully twist because the snow blocks my feet from moving, so I let go and fall face first flat into the snow. That did not hurt, but now I am practically buried. I try to push myself up but my hands just post hole deeper into the snow. I try pounding the snow to pack it down, but my hands break through again. I try rolling around making my body shaped hole bigger (and deeper), I try sinking my knees in so I get get purchase with my feet but you can’t stand on tip toe with snowshoes on. Eventually I am able to roll completely over onto my back, then sit up. From there, with a great effort of rocking back and forth, I was able to get onto my feet in a squat and promptly fell over forwards… So again I rolled over and repeated the rocking trick, and this time was able to get just enough forward momentum to get on top of my feet but without falling over again. Then I had to stand from the squat, oh my aching leg muscles!

So I march myself over to a tree with a old branch knob in the perfect position to act as a seat and take another break, drink some more actively freezing water, and look up again. These bare branches are black against the brightness of the bluest sky. They make amazing intricate random patterns zig-zaging, criss-crossing, and waving in the blowing wind that is swooshing through the hollow. Snow drifts down dislodged from its height, swirling in the wind and sparkling in the sunlight. Its cold crystals sting as the hit my face and melt. I hear branches rubbing or maybe tree trunks rubbing against each other. It’s a rhythmic moaning creaking sound, soft and subtle, that quietly stops as the wind dies away.

I decide to continue instead of turning back to home. Once I see an easy way down, I can just go down to the road and walk home that way. High stepping stop, stomp, stomp, breaking trail, my tracks behind me fading into the distance. I come upon a giant white pine in the middle of a small clearing. The diameter must be over 4 feet wide. The lower branches in a whirl pattern around the trunk are all dead but bigger around than my body. Up high the branches are alive and reaching for the sky. How does a single tree grow to be this huge? Why wasn’t it cleared when this area was farmland 100 years ago? Fighting the desire to climb, I push on. Maybe I can come back later in the summer to try climbing this giant.

Now I am seriously looking for a way down, I have been traversing at a downhill angle searching for a less steep area to descend. I see a red house and the road and am completely surprised to realize I have gone half a mile and am at the new bridge. Wow! I though I had traveled about half that distance. It is late afternoon now and the sun is headed toward setting, the temperature already dropping. The tree branches loudly crack menacingly as another gust of wind blows through. Finally, a slope I can safely descend. Still I end up sliding (kind of like skiing) down a significant portion of the descent. Back on the road. Pull the snowshoes off and head home. Exhausted, elated, enchanted, my ephemeral spirit continues to fly through the snowy forest.

Big Snow

3-14-2017

Biggest snowstorm of the year! Biggest snowstorm in several years! They are calling it a blizzard, but from here its just snow falling peacefully and piling up quickly, no crazy wind at all. I have a blazing fire in the wood stove and didn’t bother to get out of my pajamas until I decided to clear the driveway before the sun went down, not that the sun made an appearance today. I worked on relaxing, napping, reading, knitting, coloring, and snuggling with cats as the hours passed by. The snow worked on accumulating more than 3 feet high. I had to put snowshoes on to get to the basement when I wanted to feed the birds. When I did get around to snow blowing the driveway, it took my over 2 hours to clear enough of it for parking two cars. My husband is the snow blowing expert in this household, but he is in Brooklyn, so its up to me, and I have to go to work tomorrow, so the driveway must get cleared. It took 15 minutes and 2 phone calls to get the silly thing started…

For most of the day, it didn’t worry about it, just watched the natural snow globe phenomenon unfold out the window. The birds were crazy. I filled all the feeders in the front yard, and spread some birdseed on the porch for the birds who like eating off the ground. Any bird seed on the ground is covered in moments, so the porch offers a convenient alternative. The cats spend most of the day glued to the front picture window watching the show. Everybody who is anybody in the early spring bird world made an appearance, and having seed right under the picture window made the party a great one. I enjoyed standing with the cats watching our feathered friends feast on the cornucopia I have left for them. Tiny chick-a-dees and juncos, mid sized cardinal and doves, large blue jays and grackles. Many new comers too: chipping sparrows, house finches, and gold finches.

The little gold finches have not changed color yet so are still a drab olive green, with the hint of a glowing yellow just waiting to uncover itself. One female stayed on the porch long enough for me to closely examine her from 4 feet away. I had to stand perfectly still, they can see the movement beyond the window, it startles them into flight, but the seed drays them back. She was a dusty brown green color and so tiny she could have fit in the palm of my hand, even though she was fluffed up to stay warm. She hopped around in the slightly snow covered piles of seed, flinging them to and fro looking for the choice tastiest ones. Her feathers looked like velvet. I imagined her in my hand, her soft warm body quivering, heart beating furiously. I wondered how they stay warm at night when everything is so deeply buried with snow. This tiny gold finch flitting around on the porch in a snow storm is the epitome of life and death, spring trying to be reborn out of winter’s cold grip. Something so small and fragile yet has the tenacity to survive a nor’easter without even thinking about it. You Go Girl!

Barred Owl

3-11-2017

Driving home form yoga class, taking the narrow steep road the goes over the hill instead of the longer one that goes around it. Dark overcast night, cold and breezy, I am climbing up the hill, headlights illuminating the trees above me on the incline. I notice something large on a limb just inside the circle of light. I slow down as I get closer and the grey lump morphs into a barred owl. I come to a complete stop and turn off the headlights, leaving the yellow running lights on. I open the windows and turn off the radio. The owl silently watches my car. I am sure the headlights have temporarily blinded it. It sits on the limb contemplating this annoying human who has disturbed it nocturnal hunting. In the dark the world is all shades of black and dark grey. The owl is fluffed up against the chill and its white and dark striped feathers almost glow in the darkness. I am in awe of its majesty, its beauty, wildness, and mastery of the night. I want it to call out but all it does is sit, still and silent. After a few minutes, or seconds, (its hard to tell how much time passes when time stands still), it takes flight. Just a flick of motion, wings open wide, fluffy legs askew, swoop, swerve, and gone into the shadows of the forest, all in absolute silence. As I turn my headlights back on and continue up the hill I think about owls calling in the night.

More signs of Spring

3-9-2017

Walking back to the car after work, breathing fresh clean warm air, thinking of spring, knowing there is still more winter ahead. Thinking of all the busy mundane things I need to do when I get home, mind elsewhere. I hear birds chirping in the distance, the sound familiar and persistent. I come to the present, and realize it’s Red Wing Blackbirds down in the snow making pond. They have a resounding whirring trilling call that lets you know the first spring flowers will start blooming soon. One flies overhead, its small black body twisting in mid air, an acrobat with wings, the bright blood red shoulder epaulets with gold edges flashing in the sunlight. Snow melting, water flowing, Red Wings are back. Every day brings new wonders.