Now that the thick light snow has fallen and the ice hangs from the edges of the roof like saber teeth warning off the worry over the harsh elements, the landscape has become a waiting place.
Everything is so still here, just a tenth of a mile from one of the busier roads running across town. But we might as well be at the edge of McMurdo – or slouching toward Bethlehem – so isolated and full of expectancy is the little life that we lead day to day.
There are no footfalls here but the dog’s and mine, when I can manage to get the hinge of my blown knee working long enough to step onto the back porch with my nose lifted to the wind or to shuffle to the wood pile for a few more quartered stumps to stoke the wood stove.
The heaviest risings and fallings – other than the heave of the storm or the retriever’s joyous, bounding discovery of how much like lake water the downy snow can be – are the barely audible thuds of snow thumping off the hemlocks into the drifts below. The weather has not warmed enough to make the icicles plunge like swords withdrawn from scabbards out of the eaves into the belly of the clearing, but now they let fall droplets like dripping blood from a fierce, unseen battle.
It is a skirmish of sorts, out there in the cold landscape, the birds and animals up against the hard edge of survival. Instinct dominates, with more or less success, depending on the age of the doe or the experience of the coyote riding the drifts at dusk, its forechest like the bow of a boat, the snow blowing like froth over its withers.
The full moon, as sharp as a rotary blade, cuts across the night sky, a cold countenance at midnight, watching the shroud of snow settle over the canopy or disappear into the depths of coastal waters.
In moments like these, what is outside seems perfectly fitted to what lies within – not the inside of the cabin but the interior of the mind or the inner space of the soul. Part of it resides in stillness, a stopping that peace seems to bring, a suspension that the cold dictates.
And what better time and place for waiting than in the cold landscape of the old Adam, expectancy of change and hope heavy in the wind? How else could we hear the promise, if not for the hymn of silence, the quietude of holiness, the storm of the sacred encompassing us all?
Contemplation and reflection are everything in the here and now of the storm and what comes after – clarity, a thousand gems of light strewn across a drift or dangling like gems in the string of ice pendants on the roof lines.
Stand still now, but not long. Look but do not linger. Here, in the frozen landscape, as you stop a moment to breathe in all you see, you stand, your suspended self the same as a tree, a vertical line amid others reaching toward the heavens.
Here below, with only imagination for wings or wind, you can be light as a snowflake, you can hunker down like a hawk or waken, alert, with the silent owl, and fly.
North Cairn can be reached at 207-791-6325 or at: