Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Doldrums of Winter

T.S. Eliot thought that April was the cruelest month. Tom was always a little strange. I suppose in today's PC environment we would call it 'calendrically-challenged.' Or maybe he just never spent a winter on the High Plains.

For my money February qualifies for the title, whether it's 'cruel' or 'doldrums.' Out here when you hit February you are a good three months into what passes for winter on the prairie and have another two to go before the glimmer at the end of the tunnel, as they say.

True, there's a lot to do. Between wood-chopping, reading, writing, loading ammo, tinkering with guns, and messing about with picture files there is no cause for boredom. (As an old photographer I still think of the basic photographic product as a 'negative.' Can't quite get used to calling them 'files.')

This year I even treated myself to a couple of Native American flutes, as they are called, and have been teaching myself about how they work. Beautiful things they are and playing them (that's what I call it anyway!) is a soothing, almost meditative practice. Even the dogs seem to like them, which was a pleasant surprise to me.

There's only so much reading, writing, and suchlike one can do, however. I long for the seamless re-attachment to the outside world. It's not like we're confined, the dogs and I, but the temperatures and the near-arctic wind can be factors in deciding that it's a lot preferable to be inside. Sometimes there are also real safety issues in being outside for long. Wind-chills of -40° can be somewhat unpleasant.

But this morning I lay in bed and watched an absolutely glorious sunrise spreading itself over the prairie. Reds and golds, purples and greens, shot through with lovely shades of gray and burnt umber. I couldn't resist and had to go out and shoot a couple of frames. But you have to act quickly with sunrises and by the time I got outside the bloom was off. Still beautiful, but the jewel-like quality was gone. Anyway it's always better to enjoy than try to capture. I say that, but the photographer's urge is always there.

I choose to see this morning's sunrise as a harbinger, a sweet message of spring-to-come. That's a welcome message at this time of year. It's spring and summer speaking with one voice: "We shall be back!"


Sven said...

Thank you.

In my elder life, I have come to an understanding with February, since I no longer strap on the long boards and ski.

- Fishing sucks, unless you enjoy sitting on a crackling plate jiggin' fer sonambulent trout.

- Hunting belongs to rabbit hunters with two or three brace of Beagles....or pigeons....or crows...or varmints.

- The garden is full frozen over. I dig kitchen waste into the frozen compost with a hardened steel pitchfork.

- Seed catalogs and fishing magazines grow dog eared and wrinkled.

Cabin Fever sets in. I walk long walks, wrapped tight against the cold, watching enough to guard life and limb. False thaws leave slippery puddles on the hard pan. The prairie ponds grow beards, small fissures of freeze and thaw that rise and fall, split and crack.

And the light February snows leave a negative print of fox and coyote, raccoon and ferret tracks woven in morning sun, before his heat, or the downslope Chinooks eat them.

Come now March, the days when "The Prairie Melts.

THAT is the poem I recall.

It is in this anthology:

I do believe y'all will understand.

Rio Arriba said...

Thanks, Sven. I DL''d the PDF and will read it as soon as I get a chance. I appreciate it.

Rio Arriba said...

Sven, I read through the Ferril book. Some very good stuff there, but I could find nothing called "The Prairie Melts," nor that particular line anywhere. The closest I could find to the them was "Foreshadowing."

A book like that reminds us that for every poet that "makes it" there are at least a dozen out there, perhaps just as good, who never catch on. Seems unfair, but is also strangely uplifting.

Anonymous said...

Good to know things are going well out there. We are getting five more inches of snow here tonight. I think lately the roles of our respective environments have reversed. I'm not supposed to be getting all this snow and you are!

Rio Arriba said...

No, but I'm doing my very best not to begrudge it to ye!

Stephen said...

There is something to be said for "holing up" when it's miserable outside. Some perverse satisfaction in being lazy without guilt. I miss it. NE Nevada blizzards. N California driving rain storms. No such luck here in Lake Havasu. The weather never drives you into a hermit's hole. However, any guilt felt from just occasionally laying around the house, is counterbalanced quite nicely by the fact I haven't worn long pants in almost a year. A tradeoff of sorts. :-)

Jan said...

Beautiful post, Rio..thanks for sharing.