Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Toast To the Trout

On a cold, windy afternoon I took an end-of-the-year drive. I decided to head up the road that has taken me to Trout Lake so many times.

It was a leisurely drive, with many stops to enjoy the sights. I got as far as Fish Lake where I decided to leave Trout Lake for another day. Like saving a present to open later.

The trout up there are tucked in under the ice. So here's a toast to you, Trout, for a Happy New Year and a safe winter. See you, Spring 2015.

River Watch: Back In the Deep Freeze

The river finally dropped, but then so did the temperature. And so it goes...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Winter Grace" by Patricia Fargnoli

"Aurora Borealis"
Hand-lifted woodblock print by Eric K. Nolan.

If you have seen the snow
under the lamppost
piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
or somewhere slowly falling
into the brook
to be swallowed by water,
then you have seen beauty
and know it for its transience.
And if you have gone out in the snow
for only the pleasure
of walking barely protected
from the galaxies,
the flakes settling on your parka
like the dust from just-born stars,
the cold waking you
as if from long sleeping,
then you can understand
how, more often than not,
truth is found in silence,
how the natural world comes to you
if you go out to meet it,
its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
its vacant birdhouses, and dens
full of the sleeping.
But this is the slowed-down season
held fast by darkness
and if no one comes to keep you company
then keep watch over; your own solitude.
In that stillness, you will learn
with your whole body
the significance of cold
and the night,
which is otherwise always eluding you.

"Winter Grace" by Patricia Fargnoli, from Winter. © Hobblebush Books, 2013. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Here's hoping that your holidays have been filled with peace and joy, and that the beauty and blessings of the season will be yours throughout the new year.

The Story of Our Christmas Tree

It was the week before Christmas, and a man went out to buy a Christmas tree for his family. He looked first at the store that had provided a fine tree last year. They were sold out.

He went to a second place, and the story was the same. No trees left. So he drove some distance to a neighboring town. Here, in other Christmas seasons, there had been plenty of trees.

He arrived at the parking lot and looked where the trees were usually propped in row after row. He saw not a single pine needle. The lot was barren of trees.

Surely people were buying their trees much earlier than in years past, he thought as he turned the truck around to head he knew not where.

As he started toward the exit, he saw something green in the corner of his eye. A tree, a single tree, leaning up against a wall. He pulled around, parked, got out and took a look at this lone pine.

It was a tree, but it wasn't much of a Christmas tree, he thought. It was scraggly, and bent, and thin on one--no two sides. He could see why no one had chosen this tree, why it was the last tree in the lot. Surely his family would be disappointed if this was the best he could do. 

Still, it was the only tree he had found so far. He looked for a price tag. There was none, as though to confirm that this tree had no value to anyone. So he went inside the store and walked up to the clerk at the cash register.

The tree outside, is it for sale? he asked. Oh, I'm not sure, the clerk answered. I'll have to ask...

Then a voice came from the back of the store, from the one who apparently made these kinds of decisions: If you want that tree, you can have it!

The man paused. You mean I can just take it? For free? Yes, the voice answered, take it, and Merry Christmas to you! Merry Christmas to you, the man replied. And thanks.

He went outside and tossed the tree in the back of the truck. I'll take it, he thought, just in case I can't find a better one.

He drove out of town and picked up speed on the highway. Where to now? He couldn't think of another place to look for a tree. And it was getting dark, and close to supper time. He decided to head for home, sleep on it, and go out again the next day.

But as he drove through the December dusk, his mind played over how that scraggly tree had ended up in the back of his truck. And slowly he realized that he had gone out to choose a tree, and instead a tree had come to him as a gift. It was as though he was the one who had been chosen.

Yes, this tree wasn't perfect--who was?--but it seemed to be meant for them. The more he thought about it the more he realized that all this tree really lacked was a place to belong.

So he took it home to his family, and told them the story, and they welcomed it in. He set it up in the heart of their home, and they decorated it with lights and ornaments and an angel on top.

And it was as bright and beautiful as any Christmas tree had ever been.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree" by George Starbuck

O glitter-torn!
Let the wild wind erect
bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect
frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn
all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn!
It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect
tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect;
bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born
while ox and ass and infant lie
together as poor creatures will
and tears of her exertion still
cling in the spent girl’s eye
and a great firework in the sky
drifts to the western hill.

Share this text ...
George Starbuck, “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” from The Works: Poems Selected from Five Decades.
Copyright © 2003 by the University of Alabama Press.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Post-Solstice Walk With One-Eye the Cat

Went out about 3:15 Sunday afternoon, right after the solstice. One-Eye went with me. We call him that because a couple of years ago he came in with his face clawed and his left eye out of its socket. The vet tucked it back in, sewed his eyelid shut, and filled him full of antibiotics. He survived, and seems to have sight in that eye.

He came because this is his territory. From his point of view, I'm the one going on a walk with him.

The river's still high. Sometime between Christmas and New Year's I hope to use up some added minutes of daylight down at Rocky Ford Creek.

But for now it was good to spend the end of the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the longest night of the year out under the sky along the river.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

Sunlight on Earth, on the day of the winter solstice.
The north polar region of Earth is in 24-hour darkness,
while the south polar region is in 24-hour daylight.
 Gif via Wikimedia Commons. (From Earthsky.)

The Winter Solstice is here. The important thing to know is that at 23:03 UTC (3:03 PM PST, 4:03 PM MST, 5:03 PM CST, 6:03 PM EST) the dark retreats, and light begins its welcome return.

Happy Solstice!

"Winter-Time" by Robert Louis Stevenson

"Winter-Time" illustration from A Child's Garden of Verses,
by Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire.

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
Ans shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.

From A Child's Garden of Verses, first published in 1902.