I went again to that familiar place and found it changed beyond my reckoning. The form was present, as it wouldn’t change in my lifetime, I hope, but there was a white and pristine dressing on all that I beheld. Massive boulders and tiny rocks and winter-bare trees and bushes and then, the snow had touched them and quieted all I could see. The stream was still there with ice on her banks and hanging in icicle-form from suspended and up-ended trees and branches which lay in and over the waterway. Crystalline spears dangling in fragile state over the rushing water and forming in widening plates along the shore. No birds I saw as I trod the path, but tracks of deer large and small with their pointed hooves joined the joggers’ prints up and down the trail. Deeper into the woods and away from the stream were large cat prints and rabbit tracks and a spray of urine from something as he passed along. My heart is joyous for having been there today, yet sad somehow, in that I had to leave. I yearn still for that icy breath of breeze in my face and the white-coated pine trees and bushes and the smell of rich earth and decaying leaves and warm mulch and the essence, somehow, of an evergreen musky richness that came through a stand of bare, white-trunked aspens and isolated Christmas trees…and I had to stop and look around for what might be watching me. I could see no eyes in their form and heard no movement other than the rushing stream from near and far and a sometimey drop of snow from overhead branches and then. I saw a snow-cone of white-topped berries high in a tree that was bare of leaves and wondered, where were the birds whose treat awaited them. I saw the bark stripped off the side of a tree and looked for claw marks and found none. A shadow moved overhead and I saw a squirrel dart along the branch and start scolding me with his short chirps and flicking tail. He ran up the branch and hid on the other side of the tree trunk. He wouldn’t come near and he wouldn’t stand still long enough for the telephoto lens on the camera to catch him in a frame that would make him mine forever, and yours.
As I sit here and sip my afternoon coffee, my still-booted feet yet feel the trail beneath my soles and I can hear the crunching of snow in my memory…and the ringing in my ears is loud in the quiet of the room as my ears and nose warm from the chill. I didn’t notice the ringing as I looked at the clear stream tumbling over its rocks and logs and pouring into aquamarine and crystal-clear pools along the way. I heard only the rippling and rustling and rumbling of the water finding its way…as the heater kicks-on again and the coffee starts to cool and a piano melody rolls in my memory and the clouds are low in the evening sky. And in my mind, I go again to that familiar place and find it changed beyond my reckoning…and calling me still.
The notes dropped softly into the quiet air of the darkened room, falling easily like thick snowflakes on a wintry and wood-smokey night. They slid sometimes in icy wonder up the scales and tinkled down again and pattered along the floor like a baby’s footsteps as he’s learning to walk, all wobbly-legged and unsure, patting his bare toes in sprinkled notes and laughs of fancy and then. They remind the man of a music box that used to sit on the shelf in other babies’ rooms in days and nights of a past that is thin and fleeting. Cars and cars pass and the furnace clicks on and a smell of warm dust and human dander swirls against the cold walls as another tune steps from the stereo and moves him further along and into the night. The muted lights from something moving on the quiet television that glow through his closed eyelids make him wonder for a second why it’s on, but then it doesn’t matter…as the notes keep rising and falling like a tiny heartbeat. A tiny heartbeat that is just below the other notes and endures with its tender strength and doesn’t go away even when the music ends, that one little note that lay underneath and within and kept on with its steady, un-fading ping ping ping ping, and then, that heartbeat. There is an Indian running swiftly in tinkling notes of raindrops and teardrops of gentle cadence, a rushing of golden tango-notes like freckles falling on a fair and tender face, and a person dining alone in a happy sadness that isn’t sad, with a movement and sway that comforts and soothes in its quietude. They are notes in their touching caress and the passing of the minutes and hours of a night that lure the man into a wakeful sleep where his heart beats slow and calm and there is nothing else, just the song.