The Quiet Landscape of Winter

January 03, 2013


A great gift of winter is the encouragement it gives us to settle down, to take time for renewal. As nature cycles through its annual rite of shortened days and deepening, colder nights, we do well to take time apart, even for a few days, to slow down, consider the years that have passed and the one that lies ahead.

I hope that in this season’s flurry of parties and feasting, there have been moments of quiet reflection for you. These snowbound days are nature’s incentive to follow the bear into the cave of repose and contemplation. Even if just for a few days, we are better for it.

Winter provides a landscape for the quiet eye. Snow muffles sound, and in like manner, hushes the cacophony of the visual. Fields of stubble, gleaned crops, and manured soils are blanketed with undulating waves of whiteness. Roadside ditches, bracken, and stone walls are drifted into memory. The litter of the forest floor is smoothed over. The eye, like the ear, is invited into a quieter space.

Winter provides opportunity to see the world anew. Take time time this week to look about and really behold this change. This is a different vista than we experienced two weeks ago. Let your eye take it in. Revel in it.

Twenty years ago, in just such a season, I was headed to work and passed a neighbor’s pond. Well. I say it was a pond, because I passed it every day and knew a pond was there. That day, however, the pond wasn’t there. Gone was the berm that arced across the lip of the field; gone, too, was the water and its reflection of sky. All I really saw was a blanket of white. In the flat light of early morning there wasn’t even the slightest sense of the snow’s surface, no sign of near and far. Only the familiar lines of our neighbors’ home assured me I was in the right spot. Snow had erased the pond!

I slowed the car and proceeded into the driveway. For the next 15 to 20 minutes I trudged amidst drifted whiteness with my camera and a moderate telephoto lens. Framing the scene from one angle I was able to isolate the absent pond, separating it from a small shed in the foreground and a treeline some distance to the back. 

To my left, atop snow where, in my memory, the berm of grass still framed the pond, sat three Adirondack chairs. Gone were the flat surfaces of arm and seat slat. Gone too, were the evenly cut edges of the lower back legs. Like the pond and the earth, these three chairs, too, were slowly disappearing.

Before all vestige of the world I had known was removed, I photographed the scene. Carefully lowering my lens to a point just below the treeline, I removed it also from the frame, leaving just these three vanishing remnants from another time.

This is the pared down, simplified, quieted view of winter.

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