2016 has begun with Yes!
Its opening days brought glistening sun on frosty fields and the first snow of two winters. I’ve escaped the dark cocoon of my basement suite, into the light of the room I re-purposed from Mama’s piled up collections, abandoned projects, and perpetually drawn curtains, to openness from which I can see the mountain, the pink and gold sunrises, the chickadees playing in the bare lilac. I have big plans for what can happen here, but for now I am basking in the return of the light.
The beautiful days—including the snowy one—drew me into the woods. One of my intentions for this sparkling new year is to get into the beauty outside my door several times a week, and onto both the trails I built and the ancient ones used by traveling cows moving to summer pastures long before I roamed them in my childhood. It has already reminded me of why I am here, and why I want to be here.
In the woods on New Year’s Day, I came upon a remarkable phenomenon. I’ve never seen it, I had no idea what it was. I posted on Facebook, Googled it, even asked a UW atmospheric scientist (he was not helpful). Turns out it’s called frost flower or feather frost or hair ice—or crystallofolia. It is rare, and spectacularly beautiful.
(Spoiler alert: If you prefer the mystery, don’t read this. The conditions must be just right, below freezing air/above freezing ground. Sap freezes in a space that cannot contain it, causing fissures in the wood. Water is drawn through the thin cracks and explodes into the world in hair-like strands of ice. There’s more, but this is not Wikipedia. You can Google it, or let this be enough.) For more of my photos, visit my website: Writing Down the Story.
The next day, I went back out and discovered the frost flowers were still there. I carried one home on its stick, knowing Mama couldn’t see it, but hoping perhaps she could experience it in other ways. She felt it with her fingers and her lips. And tried to see it with a magnifier. I told her what I had learned about. She asked more questions, which I couldn’t answer, and were not—in my world—relevant, and therefore annoyed me. Her many questions about all things is one of the ways she has always attempted to experience the world. On the second day, I was a little disappointed that it was still there, not held to that one magical day. And, knowing what it was, I experienced it differently. Knowledge is power, but it reduces wonder. We are different, my mother and I. But that she is still curious and still retains whole pieces of the cloth of which she was made is something for which to be grateful.
I am nesting in a friend’s home in Port Orchard again, for a couple quiet days for reflection and looking forward. As I write this post, the ferries slide by unseen in Sinclair Inlet, blowing their mournful horns that echo off the hills, as they glide invisible through the deep fog. I hear the beckoning voice of my intentions for the new year, but don’t yet know how they will become manifest. After yesterday’s rain, today promises to be glittering, but not yet. (I wrote about another visit at the advent of a new year here.)
One of my intentions for the new year is to say yes to gratitude. In this portion of my journey, what am I grateful for? What am I willing to endure for the trade off in pleasure? People ask why I am doing this. I ask myself, too. The question is how can I better deal with the hard parts and how can I increase the pleasure for my mother? Can I find a way to ask the question of her? What makes her life worth living? And how can I help her find more of it? After all, isn’t that why I am here?
Meanwhile, I have a picture of what gratitude looks like forever imprinted in my mind. It ekes out of our pores, bringing beauty into a cold and weary world, and melts quickly away. And it’s easy to miss. I sit with my back to the window at dawn, and miss the sunrise. I don’t make it into the forest, and miss the frost flowers. Mama’s good spirits are ephemeral, and I am often so irritated with the ways I am different from her, that I miss her curiosity.