I arise early, fully awake. It again feels like a beginning to a new year. The moon is still in the sky when I go outside and it looks like we are in for a clear, sunny day. The tree lots are full of trees, and winter now takes a hand, though here we have no snow.
I love this column of Verlyn Klinkenborg as I think each of us notices the changing play of light, whether there are snowflakes, or not. I love his last line. Perhaps what is true of the trees is also true of us.
The Rural Life
A couple of days ago we had what the forecasts call a “wintry mix,” which always sounds to me like something you’d set out in bowls at a cocktail party this time of year. It was, in fact, rain, snow and sleet mixed with sand and salt and the sludge that gets thrown from the treads of tires. One minute snow was falling in clumps, and the next it was raining. The sky was the color of duct tape, and it let about that much light through. What a “wintry mix” does is make you want to stay home — or perhaps go into the world foraging for provisions simply for the pleasure of getting home again.
This is true November weather, in which I learn to admire the stoicism of the animals all over again. Stoicism is the wrong word, if only because it implies an awareness of being stoic. They stand over their hay in the wintry mix, and they seem to take it as it comes. I imagine them thinking, “No flies!,” as a way of enjoying this grim weather.
It’s the difference that makes a day like that so interesting. Till now, this has been a bright oaken autumn. The most vivid colors came and went, leaving behind the oaks, which hold their leaves far longer. The last few weeks have been dusted with a dry, wooden light, and the oaks have shown just how various and pungent their colors can be. It was as if the oaks had all stepped forward to remind us of a spectrum of color that goes unimagined in most years.
But everything changes on a wintry day. The woods seem to withdraw, even though the snow on the ground creates the illusion that you can see deeper into them. The brightness vanishes, and that gives all the subtler colors — the variations of gray on the bark of a maple tree — a heightened presence. As voluminous as the woods seem in summer, when they are full of shadow, now is when they seem most corporeal, most alive. I don’t mean the fact that you can trace a squirrel’s route along the maple high line or watch the woodpeckers in a hickory lining up for the suet. I mean that the trees seem to be making a gesture of a kind they never do when the leaves are green, as though they could only really be themselves when the light is low and the air is damp and the year is drawing in.