I have my camera around my neck because I’m about to go on a walk, but first I have to get out a package of frozen spinach so it will have time to defrost before supper. Descending the steep cellar stairs, I notice the low afternoon sun flooding the window well at the far end of the basement, just beyond the freezer. The whitewashed wall evokes the deep snow we haven’t seen since early December, forming a backdrop for a shadow play of dried grasses, which wave ever so slightly in the wind. I take one, quick picture, then find the spinach and go back upstairs and out.
On the northwest side of the garage, what’s left of the previous night’s inch-thick carpet of snow preserves the tire tracks from the meter reader, who came up around 12:30. This is the head of the hollow – the end of the road. His three-point turn sketched out a storybook version of mountain peaks, or large-winged birds flying in front of the sun.
Up where the field laps against the ridgetop, I study the remains of a wild sweet cherry, a tree that typically rots from the inside out. One limb is an almost vacant tube of bark, against which the dead limb of a much heavier black locust has come to rest. The risk in appearing too substantial is always that others may come to include you in their own, doomed provisions against collapse.
I follow the windy edge of the ridge as far as the porcupine tree. Oaks are good at surviving the loss of their heartwood – that’s why they live so long, and make such great den trees. But many years of nibbling by resident porcupines has left this one with severely pollarded limbs. It doesn’t give much shade, even in the summer, and there are few places for birds to nest, or even perch. When the other trees whisper and creak and sway, this one barely budges. You’d think the empty bottle of its trunk might moan a bit, though, in a high wind.
You’ve seen, I’m sure, how often twigs die and drop out of wild grape tendrils, leaving their missing figures imprinted on the air. What was it about this one, I wonder, that made the growing tendril reverse direction partway up? Does the switch from clockwise to counterclockwise represent the point at which the sun began to decline from the height of noon? I think of Qoheleth, his sun rising and setting and returning, his wind blowing this direction and that, whirling, circling. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and look: all is vapor, a grasping at the wind. (Eccl. 1:14)