Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Hiding

Winter lets you see more. When the leaves drop, after the first big wind in November, the land is laid bare, but the browns and blacks of the tree trunks and the browns and blacks of the passing leaves mask the contours. I love that season too, that muddy chill, but it is not a season of seeing.

Call the snow down, though, and you’re suddenly looking at a blown-out Xerox of your landscape, where only the thickly drawn dark outlines stay visible. Then you’re seeing the bones of the country; its high points and low, its undetectable ridges, lines, lifts and inclines. The fringe of trees limns it all in dense charcoal, and steeley waterways, lakes and ponds provide stark flat planes. Evergreens remind you in an understated way that this land is alive.

At the height of winter, there is no fog, no cloudy shroud, no airborne water at all. Just the sun, and the frigid air, and the things that freeze beneath. For as long as you can stand it, you can look deeper, further, with all the clarity of winter and all the angled light of the sun, shining into crevices it normally doesn’t touch. Truth is a reward worth the ice and inconvenience.

And now we’re coming to the Big Concealment. Life speeds up again. Buds form and the smudging finger descends upon the charcoal lines. The snow melts and the mud takes on the color of the trunks again. A gentle brush bearing watered-down green begins to apply its layers. Mist rises off the river and cloaks the places where land and water, air and land meet; insects, birds and thin vines further blur the boundaries. Our vision closes in; there is much much more to see, up close, and the world’s bones hide themselves for another year, which is awfully nice of them, considering.

It’s playtime. But as you go and play, you take that vision of winter with you, that season of far sight, of seeing deeper. Winter is not death; it is sleep. And sleep is when we dream. Play. But be a grownup, and remember what you’ve learned about playtime.

1) Share.
2) Eventually you’ve got to go in.
3) You have to clean up before that.

Further reading.