The solstice is past now, but this is the solstice sunset, the southernmost point where the sun drops behind the mountain ridge to the west of our valley. From now on, every day, the sun will set a little further north, and further still, until the summer solstice, when it will begin its journey back to this point. In Texas, we often do our winter burning on this day, a tribute to the great bonfires that were lit all over Europe in medieval times, to cheer and bless the sun as it begins another stage in its journey. Not convenient here, so I lit a candle.
That was the solstice, December 21. A week later, it was quite a different story. No sun, the mountain ridge invisible, only gray clouds, sky as gray as goose feathers, and falling snow, falling, falling everywhere.
Snow--lots of snow, a major snowstorm--slows everything down, slows you down, makes you come inside the house, makes you go inside yourself. During the worst (the best) of it, there is nothing but white and gray and black, down the white-blanketed mountain to the white-carpeted valley, where the black Angus cattle are huddled in a circle for warmth, tails turned to the blowing wind. The mountains on the other side of the valley are white, the Ponderosa pines green-black, the clouds gun-metal gray, heavy-bellied. The snow is hypnotic, falling down, falling up, whirling lazily where it is caught in updraft eddies on the mountain slope. I feel myself slowing, as slow as the snow, nowhere to go, even if I wanted to, because all the roads are deep with snow.
That was the storm, which the dogs and I shared with much of eastern New Mexico and Colorado. And after the storm, the shoveling. I cleared the decks, fairly easy, because this was a light, dry snow, and necessary, because I knew there would be a snowslide from the steep-pitched roof. That avalanche snow was much heavier, wetter, more compacted, harder to shovel. I'm still not finished. But the road's been plowed, and Stanley, the village's valiant Grand Plow Master, has come, mounted on his doughty blue Ford tractor to dig me out. The world is mine again, and I can go there, if I want.
But I don't. I'm happy here, and working, and loving the silence and the time. Special thanks to Bill, for making this possible. And thanks to you for your comments and emails and cards. It's amazing that we can all be so far apart and yet be so closely connected. I wish for all of us a bright New Year filled with dear love, good work, and above all, peace.
Reading note. I read the landscape to help me through, to know what’s come before me there, to find my footing in time. The land can speak us back to ourselves, a kind of autobiography. To see it as mere scenery is like looking at the closed cover of a book.—Deborah Tall, From Where We Stand: Recovering a Sense of Place