I find a kind of liberation in a cold, dry December. I love white-snow-clad holidays, which arise in a day and disappear in a noontime. I also love those Springtime moments, when butterflies improbably appear, and one can almost pretend that the deciduous holly trees bloom rather than berry. I fortunately often love whatever I experience, weather-wise. But in the chilled rainless extreme I feel at home.
A cold, dry December gives me a sense of escape. Although the freeways empty, as the child-blessed take to their homes instead of to their jobs and to the schools, I still find myself turning down unexplored farm roads. The hawks launch from telephone pole to ground, boldly hunting.
The farm dirt shimmers, bare, reminding me why this is called the blackland prairie. Black dirt stretches where wheat and barley grew just months ago; sometimes the remainders of the crops covers over things, stark yellows hiding starker darkness. Lifeless barns decay amid sleeping cattle. The sky stretches large and cloudy and breathes over everything, like escaping breath.
In these times, I live in a lake of stumps and staubs. None of the lakes are quite natural here--they're constructs, built by dozers and graders and countless hours of human worry and hope. The prairie they choose to submerge becomes a forest of departed scraggle wood, jutting above the water, as to issue the reminder "I am here--you've buried me under these waters, but you can see what you're suppressed". So many times one imagines that one would become a running creek again, if only one could see what one has buried.
When, as now, a glorious rainless Spring and Summer segue into a cold, rainless Fall, then entire sections of lake recede. In the east, this exposes the skeletons of shrubs. In my northern home, the parting of the waters merely reveals more grasses, green, waving, beckoning to be submerged again underwater.
I walked on a field of mussel shells, like a seashore. They were picked clean by birds--nothing but remnants.Boiled in saltwater and strung, they would make a delightful primitive necklace. In some places, they string shells to a stick to make a rattle. In the shaking, sound emits--a reminder that things depart, and what remains is the sound and life experienced in what remains. This is that rhythm of things about which songs are sung.
It's tempting to long for a time before we created the constructs. It's tempting to wish for a life without story.I believe, though, that we live in and need the story.I believe that, whether one terms it grace or hard wiring, we are the story, and we can no more live without the narratives we create and experience than we can live without water.
If all our ideas and imaginings are a chessboard of notions, then we play the game, and even fancy that we find the fractals in the way the light shines on the squares. A picture is no longer an image alone, but a set of ideas. Is it important how the face is shaped? Isn't it more important to know the story within the face?
When the camera is nearly empty, and nothing local blooms, sometimes one can only face oneself, and try to experience the myth of creation. It's a daunting thing, living one's story, unflattering imperfections and all. One sits, buckled in, ready for a journey down an as-yet-unexplored-yet-familiar country road. Peer into the camera. It's rolling.