Flat Meadow Brook has frozen over. The water that was running open a week ago is now buried under layers of ice, muffled to a deep rumble. I walked to the brook just to have a look, but what caught me was the fungus growing from a log fallen along the bank. In the monochrome winter woods, I was captured by the shades of sage against snow. Glorious color.
Sun sharpens my study, warming the room. I’ve photographed a page from my Monhegan Island journal, digitally colored and printed the page, and cut it into small squares and rectangles of fragmented text. This visual art project has been wearing a circular track in my mind for a couple of days and now is taking shape on my desk. Is this preparation for my upcoming month at Vermont Studio Center where I’ll be mapping the island journal/memoir I started five years, trying to shape it into a book? At this moment, cutting colored text into boxes to arrange is what I need to do. So I’m doing it.
Full disclosure — I picked up this stone yesterday, but it got out shadowed by that spectacular sunset yesterday evening. Earlier in my walk, as I reached a clearing in the woods, I could see the last of the sun lighting the tops of the trees. I used to watch the same thing years ago, sitting on the side of the baseball and soccer field watching games when Sam was in middle school. As the sun would go down behind us, the line of light on the trees to the east would move up and up until it slipped off into sky. Here’s a poem from those many years ago, one of many in an unpublished manuscript influenced by my fascination with physics and the way trees manifest the immutable laws of the universe.
The light draws a line on the crowns
that moves down as the sun
rises, or up as it sets.
It’s the world’s line
between is or is not, the world’s
shutter opening and closing
as the globe turns along the loop
that draws all bodies
in the same spinning path, tracking
our groove in the universe so we always
know where we’re going even as we rush
forward into the airless dark.
When David and I were on Monhegan Island this summer, we noticed that late in the afternoon, and throughout the evening, we could see tiny specks of jets, with plumed contrails, heading north-east across the broad sky. Night flights to Europe. It’s disturbing to think about what air travel does to the environment, but the streams of clouds left by jets often make great sunsets, as they did on Monhegan. Today the contrails of jets leaving Boston, I assume, fanned out over the fields by my house and caught the late light, an explosion of color as the day flamed away.
Where do three days go? There were so many moments, in the three days of the Mindful Writing Challenge that I missed, when I did pay proper attention to something, and even did some writing of those small stones in my mind, but I never got any of them written outside my head. So have I failed the challenge? Does it count that I spent almost all of Friday working on poems, with so many files open I had to keep pulling them all up on my screen to figure out what poem to jump to next, and reading poems, and celebrating the online publication of two of my poems in the new issue of Petrichor Review? (Yes, please, do go check them out.)
Then yesterday David and I met our new New Year’s intention of hiking above tree line, or at least to a 180 degree view, at least once a month, by climbing Parker Mountain. Standing on the cliffs overlooking Bow Lake, with a wide view to the cloudy horizon of ocean to the east, was a moment that got lots of my proper attention. But then we got home and had phone calls to answer and food to prep for a dinner and wood to stack in the barn and then it was time to go out and then time to sleep.
This morning we skied to Flat Meadow Brook, which was running open and loud when I was there on Tuesday. After five days of mostly single digit temperatures, the brook is closing in, with only small pockets of water showing through some ruffle-edged holes in the layers of white, crusty ice.
Now it’s a quiet Sunday afternoon with sunshine streaming into my study and that low hum of stillness in the house again. Time to step back up to the Challenge.
Home alone, the low hum of no-one-else-around-silence layered over the quick breath of fire in the stove. A day of solitude, largely spent with language — writing an article, revising poems, discussing poems and poetry with a friend, reading, reading, reading, mostly poems — has quieted me. This is my center, a warm circle, the hearth.
I walked through a room of music created by 70 Zebra Finches landing on a dozen electric guitars set upright, so when the finches land on the strings, which they do almost constantly, notes play. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot created this sonic installation, from here to ear, currently at the Peabody Essex Museum. It was a day awash in unbridled creativity, small stones and big rolling over and over in me and through me, settling in unexpected corners, waiting to pop up in my path again, undoubtedly in some poems.
The exposed skin on my face aches and stings and my fingers are numb. The trees look brittle and the branches I pass as I ski snap and break. Another storm moving up the coast bruises the southern sky a deep purple, dark beneath the sun’s low ball of hazy light. The woods are a different world than yesterday, when it was 20 degrees warmer, the snow was soft and wet, the sky blue between passing clouds, trees tossing off clumps of slush from the storm on Saturday. But Flat Meadow Brook is still open and I stop to listen to the tumble of water running, the music of motion through a landscape descending back into winter.
Tears welled up as I moved into child’s pose this morning, at the beginning of yoga class. “I wonder what this is about,” I thought, and then in another pose when the tears were right there again. Then during shavasana, the lying relaxation pose at the end of yoga class, I remembered. Natalie died a year ago. I’ll light a candle for her at sunset and let the small glow it creates dance in the kitchen as it grows dark. The candle will still be burning when I get up in the morning. Another day.
“Boong, boong, boong.” The timer signaling the end of the 10 minute meditation chimed across the room. I rubbed my hands together, then cupped them in front of my face, eyes closed, as the teacher instructed. “Drink in the energy,” she said. “Now open your eyes and look at your hands.” Late sunlight was filtering into the room through the thin, bare trees outside. I was surprised at how quickly the ten minutes had passed. I was surprised to find myself having just finished a mediation class. I was surprised at my ability to be still, if only for minutes at a time. I was delighted.