Keith Ferrell's Landlessons

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Vanishes From The Meadow Lingers In The Shade

Yesterday's brief, lovely,.light snow was, as I wrote, just enough -- enough to coat the meadow and the trees, and not much more than that. Gone by midday today in those areas that receive full sun. Only a hint lingers in the shade at the edge of the forest.

A bit more lingers on my drive, as I expected.

Even the above-freezing temperatures today weren't enough to clear it. This weekend's warmup wiil take care of things pretty quickly, but until then, I'll be hiking to and from the car.

Which is no rough duty. The pantry is well-stocked, and I have no heavy or bulky goods to carry. The day's mail and newspapers, little more than that. I can take my time and when I pause it will be because I wish to, not to give my arms a rest or, as has happened more than once, rearrange things for easier transport.

 Not much snow remains in the woods, and I doubt if very much actually made it to the ground.

But what little snow lingers there is gorgeous and is itself, worth lingering over as I make my way past.

Which I did.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just Enough

The snow that finally began arriving early in the afternoon was heavy, wet, gorgeous, and brief.

A lovely coating for a good stay-by-the-fire afternoon interrupted by one brief walk

Just enough.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Driven To Walk Through The Woods

A measure of excessive caution borne of being stuck at the bottom of my drive one too many times, a sense of the already slick spots on my drive, and an obligation or two late in the week prompted me to move the car to its snowplace, as I think of it -- a spot beside the road at the top of the hill.

There, the car may well be stuck if it snows deeply enough (it won't, this time), but whatever weather comes, the car and I won't be fighting gravity as well as slickness. I will have to walk up the hill to be able to drive out it, but I don't mind that.  

Even less do I mind walking back down, either on the drive if carrying groceries and other things, or, as today, unburdened, down through the woods.

The clouds were already thickening -- with rain, mostly, I believe -- and the shadows in the forest were twilight-thick at three in the afternoon. Fine by me. I was in no hurry, there was enough light for me (if not my aging camera), and the shadows reminded me to take even more time. I lingered and loitered a bit, looking at favorite trees and rocks, smiling at the deerpaths I saw.

Emerging finally at the edge of the meadow, I stopped for awhile to look at the farm beneath the clouds. They still didn't look like snowclouds, but I still didn't regret moving the car any more than I had ever really regretted moving the now motionless truck, whose rearwheel drive had more trouble with a snowy drive than the frontwheel-driven Geo.

Neither vehicle, though, is as reliable in winter weather -- or the possibility of it -- as my feet.

And neither can take me through the woods.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cold Day, Bright Sun, Old Dog

At 13, Ivy, who's never known any home but this farm, likes her naps alfresco, even on cold days (as long as the sun is out). She has always made beds and prepared dozing-spots for herself, generally on the edge of the meadow, though occasionally beneath the bower of a tree.

Throughout her first decade, those resting spots would be just that -- places where she would catch her breath, close her eyes, gather her energies. The instant I approached -- or some other distraction or entertainment -- she would be up, bounding about, tail wagging, eyes bright, ready to move

Now she is likelier to remain unmoved by most passersby, human or otherwise. She has earned her rest, and she is applying herself to it with the same purity and, if you will, enthusiasm, that she brought to a far wider range of activity when younger.

She sleeps well and dreams, I hope, only happily of her time here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Creek Flows Past Creek Floes

 Glade Creek, which flows through our farm,  is a year-round delight, endlessly surprising, constantly teaching me new things, occasionally reinventing itself during heavy rains.

But on those winter mornings when the creek freezes along its banks and against its rocks, and those even colder ones when the ice extends its reach toward and sometimes past midstream, the creek seems to become even richer.

Ice, water, light, and shadow come together, making morning magic.

I could stand and watch their interplay forever, but ice on a flowing creek isn't a forever thing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Small Hours, No Snow

Up for a couple of hours, reading, making notes, glancing outside occasionally to see if the slight chance of snow called for tonight turned into anything more than that.

So far nothing -- and doubt by now that there will be anything tonight.

Fine by me. While I love snow -- and enjoy being snowed in here at the farm more than I probably should -- a few days of a snow and ice-free drive is something I would enjoy even more. The last round did some damage that I will need to repair, and left a couple of slick muddy spots that are tricky enough to get past already. A clear, cold weekend will give me time to get started on the repairs.

I just took a brief stroll out to the meadow, not so far as the edge of the woods. The moon was bright through gaps in the clouds. Cold, and the clouds are thicker than they were an hour or two ago, but it doesn't feel like snow.

And neither, tonight anyway, do I.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some Silence

The power went out sometime after midnight, only the eventual beeping of a draining phone battery alerting the house to electricity's absence.

Thanks to the moon and the nearly cloudless sky, the night was brilliant; without power, the night was silent.

That's incorrect, that's nonsense. The night itself was no more or less silent than any other. Listen carefully enough even as the power meter spins, and you could hear what I heard last night: the creek making its way past the rocks in its midst, the call of nightbird, dogs barking in the distance, some small animal's (final?) cry.

What was different was that last night's sounds, the most real voice of the night, were apprehended -- and, indeed, apprehensible -- without any effort on my part other than listening for them and, more instructively, listening to them. My insomnia, chronic but not to me an affliction, often finds me stepping outside in the small hours, sometimes walking across the meadow to the edge of the forest, occasionally walking a ways into the woods. I rarely carry a flashlight.

On such insomniac walks -- excursions, sometimes explorations and adventures, tests of will and nerve when my presence rouses the rustling of larger animals -- I generally take a few minutes to grow accustomed to the silence as well as the darkness, and open myself to the night. Those few minutes are transitional if not transformational, a passage from one world -- the farmhouse, heated, lighted, radio or, too often, television of computer on -- to another, realer world. Standing as still as I can once I am away from the house, I endeavor to shed even the echoes of the sounds that fill the world within its walls. But I do beyond any real prospect of forgetting that when I return, those sounds will be there waiting, either from a device left on, or available at the flick of a switch, the touch of a button on a remote, the tap of fingers on keyboard, summonings that bring me -- what?

Noise, mostly, so different, and in ways mostly not good, from sounds.

Other than a moment of sirens -- responding to the cause of the outage? -- in the distance, there was no noise last night, though some remained accessible. Eventually, and at the time against my better judgment, I connected an older, battery-less, phone and called the power company, finding myself quickly reconnected not only to the powered world but also and unavoidably to the contortions and commands that world subjects us to. Push this button for this sort of information, touch this number for that. Noise.

Promised by recorded voice after several navigational button-pushes that power would be restored by 4AM, I settled myself on a couch in a pool of moonlight complimented by the flickering of the propane fireplace, and became aware of the night's sounds. A bird shrieked -- victory or terror? Trees rustled in the breeze.

Eventually I went outside for a brief walk, no transition needed now. The moon was bright enough and the sky clear enough that shadows were cast.

Coming back inside, a bit after 3, I experienced again that absence of transition. All connections with the electric world were savored, save the phone line, and I had no one to call at that hour. Nor, when the power company's 4AM promise was broken, was I curious enough to be told what buttons to press to get an update from the power company. The juice would come back when it came back. There was nothing I could do to hurry its return, and nothing I particularly wanted to. The current would come back.

Or not -- still powerless as dawn began to hint its approach, I remained untempted to find out more, untroubled by any of the absences electricity's absence caused. I had a small vague pang or two of desire for morning coffee, though not enough to light the grill and heat water outside. (One memorable Christmas, years ago, when the power went out, I made coffee, cooked and sausage and biscuits there; I could do plenty on that grill if I wanted to, but this morning I didn't.) My long night of silence -- and sounds -- had put me in a mood to do without, and do so not unhappily.

Even the absence of running water -- no power, no power to the well -- didn't trouble me too much. Plenty of jugs of water on hand for drinking -- power outages aren't uncommon here, though rarely one that last so long as this -- and a creekfull for dipping bucket and refilling the toilet tank when needed. The night had been chilly, but for once not excessively so this season, so the pipes were in no danger of freezing. Our propane fireplaces needed no electricity. I felt no urge and certainly no urgency to switch on a battery radio.

I sat in the moonlight. I dozed. (Oddly, and, again, instructively, I realized that I slept more deeply with the power gone than I did otherwise.) I stepped outside from time to time.

On my couch I read a bit by booklight, aware as I did of the concessions and implications -- and hypocrisies as far as my insights went -- of AA batteries, bulb, plastic case and clip carried, but they were concessions and implications and hypocrisies I could accommodate. I turned the pages of the book -- a collection of essays by Joyce Carol Oates -- avidly, aware of how crisp the sound of paper when not competing with the noise of a radio or television or computer.

(Would I have felt differently were I reading on a Kindle or Nook or iPad? No way of knowing, as I have none of those devices yet. But neither do I doubt that the nature of my rationalizations and my sense of hypocrisy would have been altered.)

By 8AM, when my wife rose to a house still without electricity, my sense of adventure and insight began to seem selfish, and finally self-indulgent, and I drove out to get newspapers and convenience store coffee, collect some gossip. The crew and the customers at the store were happy to oblige -- the Minute Market had power, which gave indication that the outage was at least relatively small. A tree had fallen across lines somewhere on the other side of the Pigg River, word was. A few more hours before restoration.

Back home I delivered coffee, put fresh batteries in the radio,  tuned in music. I went for another short walk.

In sunlight on my couch now, I took up fountain pen and yellow paper and began this blog, knowing that for it to be posted, the power would have to return, and with it connection.

Which happened, as this blog shows. The power came back at noon, a bit less than two hours ago, twelve hours or nearly so after the outage.

The return of lights, TV, Internet.were inevitable and were, I supposed at the time, welcome, and would after a few more hours as another night approached been welcome without doubt.

But at that first moment of reconnection, and for a moment or two thereafter, every bit of it felt to me like an intruder, as sometimes, as so often, I feel myself to be at night in the darkness in the woods.