Monday, February 27, 2012

30 Fire and ice

30 Fire and ice
Tap, tap, tap, bare twigs bravely beat
as the bitter wind howls through the apple tree.
Soft warm hands tender finger tipped touch
trace the hardness of bark to the velvety bud.
As January rolls gently towards February, the warm breath of spring, beckons
to the emerging buds. In the trees beyond the garden, optimistically a
blackbird begins to sing. But I know that winter's icy breath will return as
the skies fill with snow.
Backlit by the white snow filled sky, the twisted limbs of an apple tree
sways in the wind. Like an old man, robust yet bent, he stands, the wind
whistling through his branches as though his breath squeaks through gaps in
teeth. AS the days lengthen, his austere silhouette will soften with leaves
and blossom and in time he will fruit. I think of that journey from the
frost ridden days of February, to the heavy fruit of autumn and know, no
matter how slow it seems, the earth is revolving through another cycle.
But that time is not yet with us. I'm glad. I'm still in my cave of winter,
mantled in procrastination and avoidance, I sit, waiting. Seated by my warm
gas fire, I wait; my fingers gently smooth out and tuck in, the soft furry
and woolly materials that make up the Bridie bed.
Alone in my dream, I walk under the arching arms of the apple trees, their
bare branches reaching up to the sky. The bitter east wind clatters the
twigs against each other, as though teeth were chattering. Winter's icy claw
grips tightly the land. Nothing dares to grow.
Yet deep in the ground, signs of life are stirring, defiantly moving despite
the cold, nosing their way up into the light. And if I run my hands across
the harsh bark, along the twisting branches, trace them along the twig to
the end, there is something softly swelling, something promising to burst
forth.
Although I will not see the sun softly gild the edges of the eastern sky, I
will smell that deep, pungent, sweet perfume that is the earth warming up.
Long before the flowers burst forth, I will know that spring is on its way.
And then, the sky releases its Burdon of snow. It falls, enfolding all in a
softness that muffles even the birds who sing to herald the dawn.
I walk carefully across its soft carpet, it squeaks beneath my boots. The
garden is filled with bowed and burdened shrubs. The leaves cupped and
filled with snow offer themselves to me gently. I plunge my fingers in and
it is soft and cold. It reminds me of burying my fingers in a thick wool
fleece, fleetingly, I don't notice the cold. I touch their shapes and marvel
at their beauty.
But will the sun ever come back, I ask myself as the snow turns to ice
beneath my feet and the wind scorches it with Siberian zeal. The trees won't
be bare forever. The snow will go and I will wake and rise up and walk in
the sun again. But right now, I am scared to step into the world outside my
garden - I am not willing to take the risk lest the treacherous ice snatch
my feet from under me.
With only half an eye between the two of us, my companion and I set off for
the woods. The snow has stopped. It is beginning to shrink away from the
slowly warming air. I strap on my ice shoes and step out onto the glassy
path.
The snow shrouds the ground in the woods. It's not possible to tell where
the paths are. WE walk between tall bare trees.
A magnificent specimen lies on its side, its roots exposed to the air, I
climb amongst them, stroking their warm smooth bark. Experimentally, I tap
the wood. The voice of the root is deep and round. For a while I am lost in
a tympanic dream as the tree roots and I and my companion"trioette.
I spread rugs out at the foot of a dignified oak beyond the place known as
the Witches circle. Somewhere in the distance I can hear a circular saw.
Beyond that, the hum of traffic is muffled by the shrouded ground. A
disobedient dog is called to heal by its walker.
I lean my back against the solidity of the great oak. Ok, so it's cold, but
I feel comfortable here sat at the feet of this tree.
I breathe the cold, cold air into my lungs. I sigh, glad to be silent and
still at last. Things scuttle about. I shelter crouched between great
hooves. Branches twisted like huge horns are dark against the snow filled
sky.
And here now comes a wild boar, camouflaged against the white snow, visible
only when he passes in and out of the dark trees. Round and round in the
centre, he circles, pursuing some delicious smell, rooting in last year's
leaf litter, and the iced clumps of snow. Tiring at last of this, he
settles down in front of me and goes to sleep. I take a leaf from his book,
sit back and surrender to the peace.
Only the birds sing. A woodpecker boings over to my left. Robins chatter in
the tree above me. High in the sky, a crow caws as it flies away.
I sit quiet and still against my tree, sheltering at the feet of the horned
one. In my cupped hands, I hold a candle -warmed jam-jaw. My fingers warmed
by the dancing flame, I tease the fire to rise higher to dance between my
palms. Fire and water, Brigit's elements as in my mind, fire guilds the
snowy monochrome of the woods as the sun will do soon.
In the distance, a dog barks and his owner calls. Her voice echoes through
the woods. The dog is bent on evading capture. A cheerful if noisy chase
goes on amiably amongst the trees.
Goddess, I am frozen. My hip has stiffened painfully. Groaning, I get to
my feet. O, my bum is cold and my right foot is damp and so is my right
leg. Clearly I've sat in a puddle, despite the waterproof rugs. Damn!
Back home, revived by tea, toast and honey, I lie on a sheepskin rug by the
fire and drift away.
I am riding on a ewe! It's a very odd feeling. It doesn't seem to matter
that I don't know where we are going , its ambling gait is soothing. The
Ewe wanders along, for the hell of it or so it seems. That's nice, I think,
curling up in the warmth. That's all we do. That's all we need to do.
Later I take a cup of tea out into the dark night garden. All is quiet. A
new soft and fluffy blanket of snow has settled upon the garden. AS I walk
round, tender snowflakes touch my cheeks. The snow grunts protestingly
beneath my feet. I can feel the solid ice beneath the new layer of snow.
The big shell that is my impromptu winter water pool is frozen solid and
covered by snow. The wicker dancing goat wears a new white coat. It is
freezing. By dawn, this will be a solid rind of glacial treachery.
But how appropriate for early February. Brigit has thrown down her snowy
mantel. The ice hides the slowly warming earth from which new life will
spring. And I have an excuse to stay in and skulk in my winter's cave for a
little while longer. I curl up and go back to sleep.

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