Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009

There is a tradition among writers that, at the end of the year, they review the year just past. Not being given to iconoclasm for its own sake, here therefore is my own contribution to the genre.
In 2009, I...
...moved. To Iowa. Where it snows. A lot.
...fell in love. With one of those "corn-fed Midwestern girls" I joked about finding when I moved here. Guess the joke's on me. I'm okay with that.
...traveled. Visited nineteen states in all this year, two of them new to me, and although I lost track of exactly how many new counties I visited, I'm pretty sure achieved my goal of 100 new counties a year, running my total to 32 states and 867 counties. I also achieved the even more important goal of seeing as much of my family as I could manage. We're pretty scattered, but we do okay.
...met my grandmother. Which is an odd thing to do for the first time at 29 years old, but there you have it.
...changed jobs. Not companies, but I came in from the field to become a train dispatcher. It wasn't easy. Two friends didn't make it through class and lost their jobs. But I made it through, qualified, and now I'm doing something that's a nightly challenge, something I really enjoy, something that matters in some small way.
...watched my team win a Super Bowl. It was a thriller - Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23.
...spent a lot of time playing with munchkins. And found out I am to be a godfather. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.
...bought another Miata. Yes, I know. But it was either that or succumb to the siren song of an old Jaguar.
...lost three uncles. It was a tough year in our family.
2009 was a mixed year. It had some very definite highs and some very definite lows. I guess every year is like that, but 2009 seems to have had more lows than usual. Still - we keep on going. 2010 awaits. The adventure continues.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Snow - December 1999

It's snowing here. Wet snow, the kind that sticks to everything, the kind that soaks you clean through . . . it's overcast but there's a full moon behind it shining through just the same, and there's a fine, solid mist of snow coming down, covering everything it touches. Everything is still. There is no sound save the wind and the snow it brings. I can feel, hear, the snow crinkling into my coat as the wind wraps around me. The pines wave gently in the breeze, so gently they do not drop what snow has gathered on their boughs. I stand, feeling the air, feeling the snow, watching that white mist shift slightly in the wind . . . the snow covers all. Already my footprints trailing behind me to the porch are vanishing beneath its folds. Ahead of me the neighbor's floodlight casts its own glow into the mist, casting the moonlit snow into shadows. It is a brighter white against the silent white, almost out of place in this gray-white world, but it is still a part. Down the hill, the street and the trees are nearly vanished into each other, wrapped in white. There too is a glow, a pale yellow against the white, but it is not so strong.

I turn and retrace my steps, then continue them. The snow cushions my boots, collapsing with a muted crunch into its own cushion of leaves that lie below it. Behind the house, the trees are hardwoods, not pines, and their branches are bare, yet no longer, for the snow is gathering upon them; there are no needles to filter it off, but merely branches on which the snow lands and piles up, rows of white topping the gray wood. The weeds not yet leveled are quiet and subdued, almost beautiful, as the snow covers them equally. Here the mist is not so easily seen, hidden as it is by the enclosure of forest and fences, and the beauty is stark, hard almost; it is more intense than the cold which grips my body. I can bear it no more, I turn and move away quickly. It is too much. A fallen branch catches on my boot; I free it, and in doing so look back involuntarily. The cold that grips me now is not solely of the air. This time I do not look back.

In front the mist remains; it is a comfort, almost as an old friend. Here it is open; here is beauty of an intense nature, but not like of the back, where strange shapes and shadows lie just beneath the snow, almost hidden, but all too present. No, here there is a warmth of heart within the cold of air. This is the place. My voice lifts, not ringing out loud and clear, for there can be no such here. No, here the heart sings strong while the voice sings soft. Still, through the air, there is a voice in this wilderness of snow.

"Silent night . . . holy night . . . all is calm . . . all is bright . . . 'round yon virgin, mother and child . . . holy infant, so tender and mild . . . sleep in heav'nly peace . . . sleep in heav'nly peace . . ."

The voice trails off, the sounds already overtaken by the hush of the mist, but the heart cannot be silenced. The mist understands the heart, and the heart understands the mist, and only the trees may hear.

(December 1999)