Friday, March 26, 2021.
“Mountains.” I whispered to myself. I had lain my body down with an embarassingly uncoordinated plop. I could not have cared less. With the righteousness of a workday’s exhaustion, my mind ran through litanies of gratitude to the universe for anything and everything, including the bed and pillow upon which I found myself. Home. I made it home.
I set the alarm to an hour earlier than the sunrise, then pulled my wool blankets and crocheted afghans in thier own virtual hilly range outlining my body, from shoulders to toes. I set my phone’s alarm ten minutes later than the clock’s. Soon I would be warm enough to fall asleep. As I settled myself with the day’s finale of sleeptime arrangements, including, but not limited to lotions and lip balms, my head began its own settling. The echoes of traffic noises and people sounds faded. As I snapped off the bedside lamp, my ears caught the unmistakeable rush of late night winds whose currents seemed to ride the beams of moonlight through the trees.
I cranked open the window. Even a crack was enough for the wind’s wonderful cologne to hit my senses. “Hello, Wind.” Guarding my head from the cold air, I first piled pillows to break its current which seeped into my room. Somehow it did not smell the same. I reached over my head to remove my pillow barricade. I squirmed, belly-style, to open the window further. As my finger felt the bittered, cold steel handle, my nose caught the breeze. An intoxicating blend of distant snow, freshly exposed ground and forest-filtered moonlight swirled in my lungs. I breathed even deeper.
“Thank you, Wind. Thank you for my breath.”
Given my history of comparing pretty much everything to either the Great Lakes or the woodlands, I was kept awake by the idea of this wind stirring my memories of the mountains. “Like mighty movable mountains,” my head played with the idea, trying desparately to redirect my internal metaphors. “No, like the great seas with waves tossed and tumbled between shorelines.”
Or, “No, like the wind whistling with devillish wiles, bending and betraying in seductive dances among trees still deadened from their winter’s duty.”
“No, no, no.” And with that, I succumbed to the illogical. “Mountains.”
How could it be, that such an immovable entity be comparable to the earth’s most movable? I laid awake, listening and grinning slightly at my faulty reasoning. I drifted to sleep only to awaken with the shift in winds. Sometimes stronger, sometimes more direct, the icy freshness would chill my face just as if I was slapped with a cold towel. I adjusted slightly, barely conscious, then returned to sleep. One would have imagined the rhythm to be annoyingly interruptive, but it was not. Each time, the wind remained the same with only a slight change in direction.
Each time I stirred awake, my eyes adjusted to allow only the slightest shading of black tree limbs. The grey blue moonlit-painted sky highlighted their silhouettes and the midnight blues of everything else beyond my windowed bed. I laid in the dark with my head as close as my bed would allow to the open window.
The wind did not whisper nor did it howl. As the night folded into the earliest morning hours, the wind still blew around my home. No vehicles moved on neighboring roads. No lights shown from neighbors’ homes. In the growing seasons, I am surrounded here by forest, not able to see neighbors due to an envelope of maples, poplars, pines and the undergrowth of honeysuckle and raspberry bushes. But in winter, yardlights and headlights pleasantly remind me of the closeness of neighbors and how fast they will disappear with the coming seasons.
I smiled as the wind lulled me back to sleep. I remembered a vacation, a special trip, thirteen years ago to the Canadian Rockies. My then husband and I traveled as part of the company’s sales trips. It was the only one we ever attended. I had seen the Smoky Mountains as a child and had flown over the Rocky Mountain range enroute to California, but I had never stayed in the mountains. I remembered looking out the windows, day and night, to check on the mountains. From our room, to our meals, to walks, it did not matter. They were there each time I looked. I had never seen anything like them.
Staying among the mountains, I was cradled between their peaks, soothed by the sight of a small river which ran through the valley below. Waking up, I would check out the window in the morning light. Before falling asleep, I would check again. There they were. Grey stone and white snow. That is all they were. Peaks of grey and white. Giants. I wanted to poke them, as a child would, to make them move. Surely they must move. “No, Steph. They do not move.” For millions of years they have stood, forming and reforming through the carvings of glacial ice.
“No, Steph. They do not move. They are mountains.” And again, I fell asleep to my mind’s own whirling, to the dream of majestic mountains while my room filled with the fresh, moon-night winds.
It has been years since an owl visited my home. I remember it flying from the garage roof across the yard. The grand bird perched on a birdfeeder pole six feet from the front picture window. Hunting, I would imagine. Every year, February into March, the owls return in the woods. And most years, their sounds announce their presence during February’s most bitter of cold spells. Just as I had been worried that this might be the year in which they would not return, they did. They were just later than usual.
Days before the winds, the owls returned. Hollow hooting echoed through the barren trees. I had heard them unusually early in winter, before January. As February came and went, I became saddened at the thought that there might be a year in which they do not return.
But they did. Evening after evening for three days, they hooted. The first day I could only hear one. By the next night and the night after, the second arose with a reply.
Last night the dusting of snow left decking, roofs and walkways a pleasant white. Pleasant, but unwelcomed. The grey beige grass is sketched with emerging stripes of green. From even a short distance, the eye cannot distinguish the grass blades which have awoken. But as the eye scans, assessing the winters damage, a lovely green shade hovers on the lawn. The woods have not budded out yet. But the green haze of coming leaves will soon begin to fill the empty spots.
Spring in Wisconsin. I have never enjoyed a spring more than I have this one. Perhaps it is the impact of the pandemic or perhaps it is my age, but the lengthening days stir a warmth with the gentle nudge of the recycling of seasons. It coincides with my own recycling. I unpack stored boxes of books with titles ranging from slide rule instructions to a 1912 recount of the sinking of the Titanic to my grandfather’s reading book. A young boy’s careful penmanship shows in the name written in the front cover of his “Progressive Course in Reading” book, dated 1900. I imagine him, studying while working on the family farm among the Belgian-Bohemian settlements north of Green Bay Wisconsin.
As the snows slowly melt away, I am also shedding the weight of my own winters. I am ready for spring.
“Here I am, again.”
I dust off books. I discard paperwork and clothes. Usually I mourn the passing of winter, but I do not. Usually I distain the greyed out forest and the mucky earth. Not this year. I am sure that my feelings are only exacerbated by the events of 2020. I wish I felt celebratory or more meaningful or more soulful. But I do not.
I do feel strongly, at my desire, to perhaps enjoy the smell of mountain winds conjured by the hollow, mellowed hooting of great horned owls. May they bring renewal. May they chaperone the months of spring.
May they be yours to enjoy as well.
With lots of love. And a kiss to boot.
Blessings, love, peace,