Still Winter


Heavy rain over the weekend washed away most of the residual snow and ice from last week.  Woods have nothing dramatic left, just brown leaves, dull ivy, darkened birch _ even the bright green holly is subdued in the bright overcast.  Another day passes, and suddenly we are past mid January.  Days are already notably longer.

An easy time to be snug and immobile indoors.  Being outside is often a challenge, from bitter cold to freezing rain to snow and ice making walking all but impossible.  And what are the rewards _ no flowers, few birds,  shades of brown?  Yet entering the elements has rewards, if I can just get beyond that storm door.

Tangled bare fallen seasons gone

Skies hover colored as the waters

Nothing memorable

Unless I try

Centerport Harbor unusually empty in a frigid north wind.  An enterprising clammer takes advantage of that natural resource to use sails to help him drag rakes along the bottom for harvest.  Tough way to make a living, but it does keep you out of fluorescent light hell.

About the only thing I miss from other eras is the lack of open spaces free of people.  Around here, especially, every inch of ground is covered and coveted.  Fortunately we do have parks, most importantly these parks on open water, where I can pretend to be alone for a while.  I don’t know if my periodic desire for solitude is a grace or a fault, but I know I must allow it once in a while for my mental balance.

On lonely trail above blue sea,

Weeds stiffly brown, bare frozen sand,

No birds, no deer, just barren trees,

Empty mind, no thoughts, no plans.

This scene will soon change as a new probably ugly steel and glass hotel is stuck onto the façade of the old town hall.   Meanwhile, just below, a movie set is seeking to utilize some of the quaint historic charm of the village.  I’d go for keeping the historic charm, but all the town elders ever think about (because that is the nature of ambitious people) is to raze the ancient and get more money (presumably) from the new.

Oh, it’s sad enough that no one around here even thinks about what they call “patrimony” in Europe.  Admittedly, ours is only a few centuries, and hardly spectacular, but it is real.  At least I have had a chance to see much of it, to meditate on the meaning of time’s passage, and to enjoy fully the world I have inhabited.

Warming waters from the Atlantic have prevented much freeze this year _ even this ice is just from fresh water seepage floating on top of the brine.  What little we have is quite pretty, on a cold clear morning.

The invasive phragmite reeds, which everyone hates, float prettily overhead.  The spartina, which everyone wants to thrive, struggles with the polluted waters.  Yet in China, apparently, it is the spartina which is the hated invader, displacing native grasses quite as aggressively as phragmite here.  As a pretty awful invasive species myself, I can sympathize with everyone and everything.

Usually these pictures come from my walk in the morning, or at least somewhere outside.  But sometimes I do get very lazy, when it is, for example, drizzling coldly on heavy wet snow.  So it’s just a poor picture out our window, not even bothering to throw on a coat and boots and tramp around a little.  Mea culpa.

Any discipline, writing or art included, is an exercise in setting boundaries.  What are you willing to use, what do you want to leave out.  Will a picture use advanced techniques or just be by design a crude point and click?  Will an essay seek the exact mot juste, or simply express a flow of thoughts at a given moment?  Lurking behind the technique is the reason, but choosing the technique is a larger part of the rationale than we often acknowledge.



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