January 3rd, 2005

caillebotte_man at his window

Down the Silence

Bony tree limbs grasp at the hazed half moon, then at darkness again. The light comes and goes, brightening and dimming the remaining patches of snow. Mist occasionally falls, and feels like crystals of ice. The air is perfectly still. Someone has left a dog outdoors, and I hear its distant bark. The walk has been cleared, so I need not tread on frozen snow when I go to fetch the morning paper, and need not hear the loud crack the surface layer would make if broken by my footsteps. But I step off the walk just once, just to hear that noise resound through the vacancy. Then I pick up one of the large fragments formed by my intrusion, and fling it along the driveway. It disintegrates and scatters with a sound like rushing sand. Then there is only the sound of the snowmelt trickling from the downspout and then to the gutter where it joins the larger stream headed for the river. I return indoors before my ears and toes grow numb, and before I can be made melancholy by hearing again the sound of that lone dog barking to the icy emptiness of winter air.

Yesterday, the paper brought news of the death of Shirley Chisholm. Today, the headlines announce that Congressman Robert Matsui of Sacramento has died. Do political figures die in threes, like celebrities?

The winter is less than two weeks old, and already a mortal season.


We finally got to see actual blue sky again, though by the time I was awake, the sun itself was hidden behind clouds that lingered in the west. The rain must have continued most of the morning, because only a small patch of snow remains on the lawn. I'm not sorry to see it gone. It was nasty, slushy snow, anyway. Much better to see white in the sky, where a few feathery clouds blithely floated, making neither threats nor promises.

The storm has not been gone long enough for the ground to dry, and the trees are still streaked with dark strips of damp, but the relative brightness of the day has pleased me. A week of cloudy afternoons had obscured the lengthening of days, and I was a bit surprised that it was still light after five o'clock. I feel as though I've just unwrapped a present. Now, with nightfall, the revealed sky is filled with stars, and Orion has risen in the east. Though still cold, the air feels just a bit milder tonight. Winter has settled down for a nap. I'll step softly, as I don't want to wake him.