It was winter, the season of snowfall, the season of beginnings. The range of life was shrunken. In native cultures, this would be the time to sit around fires and tell the sacred stories. I wanted to head to the snow, to listen, to watch.
But first, duty called. I had to ensure we could get out for milk and eggs and the dogs could visit their snow. So I started the snowblower, listening to its noise, smelling its exhaust as it bumped over the uneven paver edges of our driveway. The machine threw the dry snow up onto the yard and into the prevailing wind, where it briefly danced back over me with a misty wet greeting. I was enlivened but not enchanted.
Work done, I changed clothes and chased the calling snow…
…Down by our airport I parked at a dead end. I found more snow, the result of street cleaning. It was past dancing, just pushed to the end of the pavement and piled. Its rock-embedded edges bulged in the shape of a blade. Beyond the piles was another visitor, a car covered with and coralled by piles. It had been red-tagged, apparently left to its fate.
To The White
I strapped on snowshoes, grabbed poles and slung on my camera pack. Through some trees I found found fallen snow, like in my yard. I hadn’t walked far, but it seemed distant enough. Calm replaced frenzy. Solitude replaced clatter. Plodding replaced striding.
Each step crunched down into a flat-bottomed posthole, then the snowshoe had be lifted high to clear the posthole. At the bottom of some holes was a hint of the earth below, an unseen rock or log or hole. Could I slip? Could my snowshoe frames tangle? Could I fall? I drove my extended tripod as a pole, planting, then lifting. Each plodding step took time.
I reached the near edge of a white meadow. Snowfall had joined with wind to quietly and relentlessly covered the rocks and down timber. Bushes were nearly covered, like grasses poking up through shifting beach sand. Landforms, rises and washes, were evident. In the distance, the branches of tall Ponderosa trees waved. They were layered with powder, which sometimes fell, dropping into the wind and dancing against the shadow the trees created. In the distance I heard ravens and other birds in trees, looking, rasping, calling.
Around me were stumps, leftovers of logging. Human artifacts abounded. Traces of ATVs, snowshoes, boots, skis, and dog paws remained on the snow’s surface. A thick white post with an angled top and a red stripe, marking a crossing, was mostly buried, its base showed the direction the wind had blown, thicker on one side. It drew my view to the meadow center and a large white metal structure with a red light on its top, and an equipment room below, in the center, an aircraft navigation antenna that reminded me of Dr. Who equipment.
I turned, looked at the post and found a scene. The cracked surfaces of the post contrasted with the smooth expanse of snow and with a stand of tall snow-layered pines that rose from their shadows. The course of an old ATV track curved to the right. Time was of the essence. The earthly forces of snow and wind had done their best to cover the artifacts and proclaim their power. They would continue to work and the scene would change, never to return. The camera called to come out and I obliged.
Soon my legs ask for a break from crunching, lifting, and balancing. Snowshoeing is magical but also hard work. As I plodded back toward the car, to shed layers and equipment, I stopped to look back. This meadow was less than a mile from houses and a mile from the airport, hardly wilderness, more like a ship in a bottle.
As I stood, I remembered what my native American mentors had taught: this meadow isn’t mine; it belongs to the whole earth. It can’t really be owned and must be cared for, if life is to continue. I gave thanks for the life I found.
My memories of chasing snow are many, starting from my desert home and now my mountain home. They will be more memories, more plodding. Then the snow will melt. Green will return, with adornments of orange, white, red, yellow, blue. Critters, migrants, burrowers, and humans with their dogs, will re-appear, in the air and on the ground, calling, mating, barking, hunting, walking, running. The meadow will become a watershed. Its snow will feed ponds, wells, springs, seeps, creeks, and rivers. The bright blue sky at 7000 feet will warm the ground and add its summer rain. And more distant scenes, red rocks, peaks, canyons, rivers, family and friends, struggles for fairness, justice and equity and for crucial civic campaigns will add their calls.
White, green, red, golden the cycles move on, always changing, always the same, always magical.
It was time for coffee.
**this piece is excerpted from a longer work intended for publication submittal
**please contact me (vic at vicsmithphoto.com) if you are interested in reviewing it
My thanks to Jessie for her help