It came blowing down the valley in a translucent wave, the trees still visible but no longer clear, like a watercolor painting where the colors fade, blend and stretch. It came with wind and rain that turned quickly to snow, blowing in as if it realized how late it was, that autumn had already had far too much time to bathe the land in golden rays of sunshine and dusty shades of brown. It came in a rush, and now winter is here.
The land has turned dark and light, a chiaroscuro earth. The cabins, fences, and the small stream – still running – stand out black against white. The conifers hold a frost of ice on each limb, and at their heart, they are near black, a cave providing small birds with shelter, those tiny creatures that flit in sub-zero temperature all winter: chickadees, juncos. The birds’ survival is one of the miracles of the season. They too are of dark and light, the chickadee with its white face streaked with a black eye band; the junco flitting off to reveal white feathers on either side of its deep gray tail.
Even as winter brings a stillness, a dormancy or departure of many of the living beings, it also reveals life. The weasel prints his run along the fence into the snow, tracks evenly spaced along the rail. The elk write their trek across the hillside, a dark line traversing the white slope. The owl records her successful hunt with a spot of blood, crimson on crystals.
Quiet reigns, any break in the silence awakens the senses. A flowing creek sends out a symphony of sound, a raven chuckles and the bird’s voice is a clarion call of life.
Winter strikes hard, digs in deep. The contrasts are stark – dark and light, soundless and music. Life and death. This is not a forgiving time. Yet, somehow this edge heightens the beauty of the season.