The snow fell steadily in the night layering up the landscape and decorating the trees—the evergreen and bare branches, alike—with a coating of white. A transformation from raw naturalness to magic occurred under the cloak of darkness—a wonderland unveiled with a sparkle that can only shine in this way at the birth of a new day.
The sun rises on the front side of our home through a wooded view—a spectral of coral and rouge extending like a luminous line on the horizon behind the trees. Sometimes I can catch the golden orb of the sun-itself just as it rises up through the stark branches. It seems as if I could reach out and pluck the glowing ball of heat out of the sky. I imagine cupping it into my palms and bringing it to my heart to be absorbed—like a remedy.
In the back, evidence of the sunrise reveals itself more gradually in the pale pink strip of sky on the very top stratum. Each sequential row of light grows dimmer and dimmer until the air meets the saltwater in a sparse hover of fog. Sometimes only a reflection of the light will appear out back on the tops of the towering pines across the water. The affect is a row of paint brushes pushed into the snow with golden tips reaching upward to their source. The rest of the scene is draped in shadows.
It takes some time for the waterside to become fully illuminated—awaiting the morning light has become my practice, its arrival my touchstone.
Saltwater freezes more slowly than freshwater—the thin layer of ice coating the surface these last few days is deceptive, the consistency changing rapidly with the rising daytime temperatures. Jonah comes running up to the house—his snow pants soaked right up to his knee—his boot had pushed through the tenuous surface, a surprise.
When the gentle entry of this season gives way to the full force of winter’s mighty blast, the saltwater will finally freeze solid a few hundred yards out. Our backyard will become a blanketed field, the ebb and flow of the tide hidden in the months to come.
Jonah kicks his boots out from beneath his dripping pants—ready for cocoa. Adrian is right behind him.
I sneak a handful of the miniature marshmallows that will cover the top layer of the sweet mixture in the white, bird mugs.
Pouring milk and stirring in chocolate, my eyes are repeatedly drawn to the little cat door where Autumn’s head used to poke through. I search around my insides, too, hoping to discover the essence of her there.
While building a fire—bending to put the wood in—I think I might see her walking toward me from the corner of my eye.
She once burned her tail standing too close to the woodstove. It didn’t seem to hurt her but the tip was singed and made a distinctive odor. It was a long time before the fur shed and grew back soft again.
I make my way to the library. There are only a few spots filled in the lot. When I enter the lobby the quiet consumes me. The silence pulses like an invisible, soothing force as I make my way through the stacks of books to my favorite table—in the puzzle room— by the wall of windows.
The evergreen branches outside are being weighted down by the melting snow growing heavier now. The sun floods onto the side of my face warming my cheek and my hair to the touch. There are three or four steady drips of water coming off the side of the building like a string of musical notes in a rhythmic song.
Suddenly, a massive rectangle of snow falls from the roof loudly just outside the window—a crash and puff of snow lands slamming down not two feet from me.
Three, colorful windmills spin intermittently in the distance while more and more droplets join in the song.
I’m waiting for Adrian after school—the crabapple trees along the building draw me in. The crimson berries are stunning in their juxtaposition with the pearly backdrop of the season. I walk more near and examine the fruit closely discovering among the ruby beads, tiny, dried red and peach petals. I take a petal between my fingers and pull it apart gently.
It is still soft on the inside, like a recent bloom.
Adrian likes to find the places on the campus where he is light enough—the snow frozen enough—that he can balance on top of the topmost layer. From a distance—in all of his fluffy gear—he looks like an astronaut walking precariously on the moon.
I join his quest and every so often discover a place where I can keep my weight at bay and stand without pushing through to the real ground. There I am—balancing weightlessly above the many sheets—hovering in a space between worlds.
Like a child, the pleasure of conquering the natural elements washes over me. Standing just briefly above the surface of the earth—crisp air fills my lungs, a sense of spaciousness surrounds me.
I’m transported away from the noise and back into my own skin again—washed clean from the denseness of the unreal, an inner silence palpable.
I take another step and listen to the satisfying, crackling sound as my boot punches through.