Sunday, January 22, 2012
Flakes of Snow in My Hair
We've had our first big snow and spray of freezing rain. I am glad to be in safe and warm for now for I remember too many nights traveling as winter shook its fist at the forecast. I remembered the snow as I traveled from the field to my hotel, hesitant to leave, yet physically more than ready for warmth, food and rest. As someone drove me the miles in, there was nothing else braving the elements but some poor, cold creatures trying to seek shelter as best they could, some cattle, and a couple of forlorn horses, waiting to be brought back in to the glow of light in the barn. If I looked out onto the snow, beyond it, trying to see past the grass and the water and horizon, it appeared to come down ever so fast, frantic, furious. A life. . these years, can seem to hurry past that way if you let the vision of it trick you. Too fast, too hurried.
In my house I have some photographs of horses running free; over the sofa, a large painting of wild horses running through snow. I love looking at it, high desert snowflakes at home in their manes, hooves barely touching the ground, running to one accord, mighty, free forms cleaving the air. The artist has captured their movement, as they appear to fly, the steam of their breath, the cold hard air of the desert, the thudding heat of their freedom, laid out in strokes of color, particles of white.
At the hotel, despite my exhaustion, I got out of the vehicle and just stopped and looked at the thickening snow. Despite the bitter, bitter cold, I stayed outside for a moment, looking up into the overcast, looking at my life as I looked as the snow as a child. As children, growing up where we did, "snow days" were infrequent. The world didn't stop for snow where snow was not uncommon. When we got one, we'd be outside the door before the breakfast dishes were even put away. Snow was not cold, it was not work or worry. It was a divine benediction which spread itself out onto the world where we waited with glee. Grabbing an inner tube to ride down the cleared foothills, shoving a couple Archway cookies in our pockets and heading out into the dazzling white, we'd heed the siren call. There I would simply wait my turn on the hill called "widowmaker", content to just sit and look up into the wonder as we waited our turn.
Then, I'd launch myself with abandon out into it, flinging my form down onto an inner tub that was traveling downhill much faster than my Dad would approve of. There was nothing but movement and emotion, snow in the amber fire of my hair, my cheeks flushed, body arching up into the air, trying to maintain the moment that I knew would come crashing down much too quickly. At the bottom of the hill, chest heaving, I'd simply look up into the sky and say thank you, for that moment, as time gathered itself back up and started ticking again.
Then, face flushed with anticipation, I'd pat my pocket to make sure my cookie was secure and I'd trudge back up the slope again. As I peered down into the void I'd say, "I probably shouldn't do this ", as I launched myself off yet again into space, remorseless and laughing, flying down the slope, potent, strong, as free as an eagle, not knowing yet as a child, that even for the eagle, all space can still be a cage.
That's the snow I wish to remember. Looking up into the heavens trying to see where it originates, then the slow fall of it, parachutes of white dropping down, slower and slower. This is how I wished to view my life, at that slower wondrous state of snow, one where you live twice as long, and see twice as much wonder, and love twice as hard. You can't catch the snow, you can only watch it fall to you, grasping it briefly, stretching out your hands to clasp a wisp of air and hold it for the moment.
As pilots, flying through snow is unique, and we cry out like birds as we enter its first bands. surprised by how suddenly it envelopes us, one second a peaceful gunmetal sky, and in the next, snow emptying out the pool of grey, color tumbling down til nothing is left but a bare canvas of heaven, pushing our craft through a cotton blanket at subsonic speeds. Flakes as big as an apple strike the window, sheets of snow and sleet pasting against the glass like discarded newspaper. When you fly through the snow, despite the chatter of the controllers, you feel totally alone, with an underwater hush, that cotton stuffed in your ears silence of snow falling, and you can't imagine that there is anyone else out there. Anyone else that feels as you do about such things, as you do at this moment.
For in those quiet moments between thought and action, there is desire, and for just a moment, we smile there as the snow hits the windshield like flack. But the moment is fleeting, as it's time to get back to total attention to task on hand.
Does anyone really know what piles up like drifts in the recesses of our heart?
Does anyone really know us. I bet many of you reading this will say I know my girlfriend, I know my husband, my child. You may, but there are all parts of us we keep in, murmurs of thoughts, voices in the background, hope, remorse, sounds evocative of places and times we've been conscious of our whole life without really knowing it, things we think that only God and ourselves know, unspoken, yet part of us. If we close our eyes, we see such things, see them as hard printed pages that guide or simply the faded and weathered letters of our past.
We all have our secret selves, those things that make us laugh or cry, that even our own family doesn't understand, things that lie waiting for someone else to give validation to them. But such thoughts are best left for a night in a quiet room. For now, it's been a long night in cold air and I'm ready to land where it's warm and quiet, where my body will curl into itself for sleep, as the cool blue fingers of winter run around in my lonely bed, brushing up against me as I try to rest. After a long night in the field that stopped only due to the need to rest, sleep will not be coming quickly, my form tossing to and fro, my own fingers lying like agitated birds against warm skin, wishing to work, not to sleep. I run my hands along the curve of my arm and it trembles beneath a curious hand.
It's obvious I'm not going to be going to sleep quickly, even if I've worked all night. I shuffle into slippers and put on a robe, opening the door to the patio of my suite, drawn by the sound of geese heading to home while there is still a splinter of moon still embedded in the sky as in the East, the sun struggled to rise.
I saw a flock of geese above, trying to fly through the white. I admired the sureness of them, the determination, as their gray and black shapes winged through the white, the world trying to tumble them upside down, trying to bury them. But their force and speed, flying through all that cold brightness, held true and onward they headed to the dark waters, to safety, falling at that last moment like planes crashing, but landing silently in a sheltered cove. At that moment there was nothing in my world but the sound of their mournful cry, black against white; nothing in my mind but the sureness of wings, the echo of sanctuary, the sound of sadness and suggestiveness, as if saying, come follow me. But I can't. Not quite yet. For now I am earthbound, while snow flakes gathered at my feet, tumbled in the wind like rose petals blown about like a lovers departure.
But though I am earthbound, I am happy, even as I stand in the shadow of the snows embrace, flakes touching my cheeks, turning them to blush. I should come inside, but I need to see clearly just another moment, just long enough to look at the outline of something, my future, perhaps the shape of it, the touch of it, through the heavy falling snow, a future filled with hope and promise, and perhaps sanctuary.
From inside, my phone rings and I recognize the ring tone assigned to a certain phone number, bringing with it, a smile. I quickly turn towards the light, my feet barely touching the ground, seeing my future through the diffused glow. Like those horses I passed on the drive in, I see the golden glow of the door and the comfort and sustenance within. It beckons.
There is the door, and soon I would fall in, landing safely, flakes of cold in my hair.